Twenty years ago, this was the title of the account Mike Gatting published on the series victory his England side had achieved. Other times, other results. But the title is entirely apt to what has taken place in Australia these past weeks: a triumph is what it has been for the home team, and an utter drubbing for the victors of 2005. It's not just me - enjoying every ball of it - who is talking of England's defeat in such terms. This report from Mike Selvey uses some forthright language in a breakdown Test by Test:
A hammering by an innings and 99, on a pitch that demanded a close-fought, low-scoring, industrial sort of match is as abject as it gets and follows on from the 277-run shafting in Brisbane, the six-wicket walloping against the head in Adelaide and a 206-run hammering in Perth. Sydney could be the pits for a side totally shot to pieces.Having watched the series from close-up, I'm only surprised that Selvey found it necessary to repeat himself by using 'hammering' twice: he also had 'pasting', 'thumping', 'crushing', 'thrashing' and 'humiliation' to choose from.
I've been struck by how many people have suggested to me that, even as an Australian supporter, I might have preferred to see a more closely fought series. Yeah, right. Like the time I was at Old Trafford in February 2001 and we're beating Arsenal 5-0 at half time. Wasn't I just thinking, 'Oh damn, I wish it was 1-1, so that there was still a fight on to win the game'? Actually no, I wasn't thinking that.
Cricket, all by its wonderful self, produces a whole variety of situations, and I find myself able to take pleasure in that variety. The close fought contest does have its appeal; and so, too, does the decisive triumph against a long-standing adversary. (And if there are England supporters who wouldn't absolutely love to be 4-0 up against Australia with only one left to play, I'd like to meet them.)
Anyway - and at the risk of repeating myself - there is one quite special reason I'm relishing England's current misfortunes, and that reason is the main public face of the England support here. I refer, of course, to the Barmy Army. In the first three Tests I had the good fortune not to be sitting too near them, and they seemed in any case to be fewer and more dispersed in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth than they have been at the MCG. In this latest Test, the more abject England became the noisier the Barmy Army were, with the endless chanting which is more about being heard - and being the centre of attention - than it is about events on the field of play. Of course, the Barmy Army are not the England cricket team, but they are embraced by that team. Here in Melbourne, as at Perth, they fell into their 'We are the Army' chant most vociferously and for the longest spell after the Test was over and as the presentations got under way. Shane Warne was being interviewed for the man-of-the-match award, and except by getting some distance away from the Barmy Army and close to a TV monitor you couldn't hear what he was saying. Thus did these folk choose to mark the farewell from his home arena of possibly the greatest bowler who has ever played the game: without courtesy, without grace, without even a simple recognition of the cricketing moment. Just doing the the thing they know best, making a noise.
So, some extra satisfaction on that account. Back to Selvey:
Some simple statistics from the match tell their own story. Effectively, England were beaten by two batsmen, who made 309 runs between them in their only innings - England managed 320 in the match - and four bowlers. To compile their runs England batted 140 overs while Australia required 32 overs fewer to make 99 runs more, this after being 84 for five. England managed just 17 boundaries in the match, while in their only innings, Australia, Matthew Hayden and Andrew Symonds for the most part, hit 34 fours and three sixes, all on a pitch that should have yielded runs grudgingly.(In case I should be taxed with holding views about supporter behaviour that I don't in fact hold see these two earlier posts.)