It's hard to explain cricket... and I don't even mean the rules. A fantastic summer of sport came to an end yesterday with England's nail biting, but superb victory over Australia just up the road from St Mary's at The Oval yesterday. It's the end of a drawn out campaign lasting six weeks, five matches, seventy five two hour sessions, swings, roundabouts, dexterity and above all tactical decisions of genius and folly all played out in fascinating bursts, duels and slogs and counter punches.
I've often talked on this blog about the drama and psychology of sport. The most exciting events work simply because they are theatre. A week ago Usain Bolt astonished the world in nine and a half seconds, regaining the Ashes is the opposite end of the wonderment spectrum. An epic Shakespearean history cycle or Aeschylus' Oresteia compared to a Diva shattering a glass with a high note.
There's a huge pleasure in a contest attrition, which enables time to reflect on previous battles, laud the mighty, expect remarkable feats of endurance, idolise and forsake heroes whilst twisting and turning and re writing the plot over and over again. As with all serious drama it's the fate of the vanquished that makes the really compelling narrative. Winning is straight forward, it's the fall from grace that really interests us..
The Oval is the most destructive of battlefields. It's where England originally lost The Ashes in 1892. It's where the great Don Bradman was bowled for a duck in his last innings in England during 'The Invincibles' tour of 1948, bringing his test average down from 101 to 99 and it's where yesterday, Ricky Ponting, the bravest Australian batsman since The Don became the only Australian captain in 119 years to lose the urn twice. The sweat, blood and the ignominy are, on this occasion, all very real. Kennington is a place where reputation doesn't count for much and tragedy is only a wrist spin delivery away!