Remember when England last won the Ashes (that’s cricket, by the way)? It was just four years ago on home territory, accompanied by much celebration across the land.
Typically, when England played the rematch in Australia the following year, they were whitewashed 5-0. Groan!
This summer it will happen again. Shall we win, or will the usual Australian dominance emerge? Certainly, the team is not playing well right now.
Here’s what I wrote in the aftermath of that great sporting victory on October 20, 2005:
Phoenixes rise from the ashes we are told. So do nations.
England and Englishness have been submerged for three centuries under the guise of “Britain”, a union with three smaller nations. I have to confess, when my Scottish friends make this point, I’ve remained doubtful about it. Until now.
The prevailing mood, at least for the past decade, has been a soggy political correctness, a strange notion that all cultures are equal, a view that a little world travel soon dispels. Governments have forced this down our throats with such cunning efficiency we’ve almost come to believe it. Now the new virtual federation of British nations created by Tony Blair, has awoken something atavistic and vestigial in the English heartland.
And today comes “The Ashes”, an historic cricket trophy of such potency that two proud nations, England and Australia, spent the entire summer contesting it in a gladiatorial contest of such ferocity, it wouldn’t have looked out of place in Ancient Rome.
With a summer of extraordinary sporting entertainment behind us, including great acts of courage and sportsmanship on both sides, England have emerged triumphant. From the Ashes, the phoenix of a nation rises again.
The mood everywhere is euphoric. All manner of people who have never given a second glance to cricket are now apparently ardent fans, singing “Jerusalem” (an odd choice of anthem) in every part of the country. This is not overstating the case. Just as after the rugby world cup win, there’s a sense that something important once lost is now visible on the radar again.
The truth is that the reaction to this occasion reveals more than just a sporting event, it’s the social and political re-emergence of a people. All the old attributes we normally associate with Englishness are encapsulated in the game of cricket.
C.G. Jung said the English genius is demonstrated in the games they have invented. He was right. They are like moving tableaux of beliefs and fundamental values.
The present Labour Government is more at home on the football pitch, among the over-paid divos, mindless morons and their brazen wives.
Tony Blair didn’t know how to react yesterday when faced with this new phenomenon. He seemed embarrassed when giving out the cricket score. This isn’t the Blairite society he and his whimsical wife and the bloke next door have been trying to create for nine years. Something’s gone wrong.
England is finding her voice again. Arguably the finest, most civil, and effective culture the world produced in the last millennium is finding its voice on the cricket pitch and in that ancient Blakean anthem about a green and pleasant land.
This Jack Tar has jumped ship. He will not be content with the dark, satanic mills of postmodern egalitarianism again. They have been warned.
Indeed they had. But they’re still with us, four long years on. “About to go” is not enough. We want them out now.
Preferably before the Ashes battle begins.