Aggers’ Ashes: The Inside Story of England’s 2011 Ashes Triumph

Jonathan Rice reviews
Aggers’ Ashes: The Inside Story of England’s 2011 Ashes Triumph
by Jonathan Agnew
Blue Door, hb, 248pp, £18.99

For England the 2010-11 Ashes was a glorious, jolly tour, so Jonathan Agnew is just the man to tell us all about it

THIS BOOK arrived for review just as I finished reading Duncan Hamilton’s A Last English Summer and Gideon Haigh’s Ashes 2011, and it was like switching from PD James or John le Carré to Agatha Christie – no more subtle metaphors, no more swirling paragraphs thick with atmosphere, just the plot, galloping along at breakneck speed as Strauss and his squad murder the Australians.

We all know whodunit – it’s like Murder on the Orient Express: they all did. But knowing the ending makes it no less enjoyable to read. After all, the victim was Australia. Aggers, a consummate broadcaster, would make no claims to be a great writer but he knows how to tell a good story.

It is, of course, the story of Jonathan Agnew’s tour as well as England’s. So we read of his rather futile efforts to lose weight, of dinners with chums (and Geoffrey Boycott) and of the tweeting of a Massachusetts nanny called Ashley Kerekes, who won herself a holiday in Australia and a meeting with the prime minister just because her Twitter name was @theashes. This all helps to bring home the reality of the winter’s efforts. It was a very long tour for everyone.

Agnew is often nervous and not until the end of the first day of the fourth Test (Australia 98 all out, England 157 for 0) does he begin to relax and realise just how good this England team is. It is the strength not so much of the “first eleven” but of the reserves – Bresnan, Tremlett et al – which underlines the gap between the sides. Australia’s replacements, including one captioned “Ian Beer”, who I thought was a former headmaster and president of the Rugby Football Union, are just not good enough.

The book is called Aggers’ Ashes but of the 248 pages nearly 100 are by other people, notably Tom Fordyce, Ben Dirs and Oliver Brett from the BBC online team, who contribute telling pieces throughout. But it is still Agnew’s story and it is his voice that comes through on these pages and his slightly less than wiry body shown attempting the sprinkler dance on the back of the dust jacket. He deserves credit for a happy book on a hugely successful tour.

Jonathan Rice has written two books on Ashes series, in 2001 and 2005

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