Remembrance of Tests Past

No need for Proust’s madeleine (or maybe that should be a Four’N Twenty meat pie) as I have this:

Ashes 2010-11 ephemera

to remind me of this:

And it all starts again tomorrow. I hope I’m not tempting fate by mentioning these reminders of England’s triumph the last time these two sides met in the Test arena. The three weeks I spent in Australia, watching England retain the urn at Melbourne, and win the series at Sydney, were pretty much the best three weeks of my life.

Expectation regarding this go-round have grown markedly more realistic. England may be the better team in terms of results, ranking, and personnel, but Australia will be no pushover. Expect a few scares for England along the way. The fallout for whichever side loses will be brutal. But whether it’ll be Swann’s Way or Anderson’s swing that starts the ball rolling tomorrow – or if Cook, KP and co are subjected to a Pattinson peppering – the anticipation of new memories in the making is mouthwatering.

The pile of clippings I brought back with me from Oz, the magazines, match programmes, ticket stubs and Moleskine notebook filled with my fevered scribblings because I wanted to remember every second, are just the analogue tip of a media mountain that has grown exponentially over the last few years in terms of cricket coverage. Blogs, twitter, and websites, along with their august forebears television, radio, and the printed word, will be the avalanche that descends upon us all over the next few weeks, burying us with stats, analysis and opinion. Death by information overload, but what a way to go.

Tomorrow, it’ll all be distilled down to the simple reality of mano-a-mano, bat versus ball – no past, no future, just now. Formula 1 champion Jack Brabham once said: “When the green flag drops, the bullshit stops”. There’s another line I’ve always loved, spoken by Steve McQueen in the movie Le Mans, and which is applicable as much to the Ashes as to motorsport in terms of the distillation of expectation and moments that make history: “Racing is life… anything that happens before or after is just waiting”.

The waiting, thank god, will soon be over.

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