These are good times to be a British sports fan. Last weekend saw the British and Irish Lions win their first series in 16 years when they defeated Australia in Sydney and Andy Murray become the first British winner of the Wimbledon Men’s Singles title since Fred Perry in 1936.
Murray’s victory over Novak Djokovic sparked a mood of national sporting euphoria not seen since.... well in fact seen as recently as last year’s London Olympics when British competitors won a clutch of gold medals.
But euphoria is a hard thing to translate from one sport to another. England are favourites as they bid for a third straight Test series win over-arch rivals Australia starting in Nottingham today.
However, the lesson of history is that touring Australia parties billed as “the weakest to travel for an Ashes” are rarely that. The last time that line was used was in 1989 when Australia regained the Ashes by a 4-0 margin.
Australia were thrashed 4-0 in India, where England won late last year, in March and come into this series with huge question marks over their batting which, with the exception of captain Michael Clarke, battling a longstanding back problem, lacks proven world-class performers.
However, an attack set to be led by Peter Siddle — fifth in the world rankings — and likely to feature promising paceman James Pattinson could cause England problems.
England’s batting in their recent home series win against New Zealand was not as dominant as some had predicted although, significantly, they were then without the injured Kevin Pietersen, now fit following a knee injury.
Pietersen, after scoring a brilliant hundred against his native South Africa at Headingley last year, was briefly dropped by England for sending text messages allegedly critical of then captain Andrew Strauss to Proteas players.