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Ashes archives stir anticipation

Feeling both the weight of history and his father's revisionism,'s Matthew Sherry is in reflective mood ahead of Wednesday's first Investec Ashes Test.

Arriving into work this morning, my first move was to immediately flick Sky Sports’ Ashes channel on the TV; I realise the words ‘work’ and ‘SkySports’ should never go hand in hand, but I’ve long since accepted this is not a real job.

It was the obvious move really, for I - like many others in the nation - am already gripped by Ashes Fever.

Immediately, I was taken back eight years to the 2005 series, when we were all daring to dream of the unthinkable: England getting back the little urn and ending 18 years of, let’s be honest, absolute misery.

Yet if that first day at Lord’s taught us anything, it was the pitfalls of overconfidence, the unpredictability of sport at the highest level and Australia’s unwavering ability to get up for a fight.

I can remember my own smugness midway through that opening day. England had fared considerably better than I had on the just-released Brian Lara International Cricket the previous evening, dismissing the old enemy for only 190.

But then Glenn McGrath happened, and suddenly my Dad was saying: “What did I tell you? The Aussies have been doing this for years.” (The ‘what did I tell you’ was particularly galling given he had made no such predictions of an Aussie riposte). Suddenly, England were 1-0 down in the series and my Dad’s transformation into a revisionist Nostradamus complete (he has no doubt since forgotten his suggestion Australia would win 5-0).

Thankfully, Sky spared me the despair of watching the remainder of that opening Test - albeit viewing in the knowledge England would win the series 2-1 hurts less - instead taking me back to one of my favourite sporting memories.

I’m sure I am not the only who looks back fondly on ‘Butch’ crashing McGrath, Shane Warne, Jason Gillespie and Brett Lee around Headingley in 2001.

So inspired was I by Mark Butcher’s 173 not out that, later that evening, I claimed the final wicket as my mates beat a better team - in the midst of a brilliant last-wicket partnership - on the school field.

Anybody who’s seen me play cricket would ask how on earth that happened. The answer: I’d just seen the best cricketing performance ever.

It seems strange now, thinking back, that I garnered so much joy from an innings - albeit a very fine one - that earned England a victory in a dead-rubber, for Australia were already 3-0 ahead in a series they would win 4-1. It seems equally strange to think about how much cricket’s famous rivalry has changed in the last 12 years, too.

We have seemingly come full circle; in 2001, Australia were heavy favourites; in 2005, Australia were favourites with England seen as a chance; in 2009, England were favourites with Australia seen as a chance; in 2013, England are heavy favourites.

So what have I learned from my morning of retrospection? That this job gets extremely busy the day before an Ashes Test (given how this piece started, I’ll not expect any sympathy); that Ashes Eve is much more enjoyable when England have an excellent chance of winning and that over-confidence has bitten me on the bottom in the past.

Most importantly, I’ve remembered just how mind-blowingly brilliant the Ashes can be - even for those on the losing side.

Obviously it’s more enjoyable when you win. My confidence has been tempered by this morning’s events and my Dad’s unshakeable belief in his latest prediction.

Yes, he expects Alastair Cook’s men to emerge triumphant; let’s just hope he has not changed his tune on August 25. 

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