“Ignore Ashes history at your peril” wrote Edward Craig on Tuesday. It was a warning to the many English journalists who prematurely believe the Ashes are in the bag (or in the Urn, really). After all, England don’t tend to do particularly well in Australia.
It was a fair point. Yet then Ed went and predicted that Australia would win 2-0. So that’s three draws then, in an Ashes series Down Under. He’s not the only one – quite a number of English journalists, when asked by this magazine for the their predictions, also believed there would be three draws.
That’s certainly some perilous Ashes-history ignoring going on there. Of the last 50 Tests England have played in Australia, 10 have been drawn. Of the last 25, there have been only four draws. Add in all of the other countries and, since 2000, just nine of the 61 Tests played in Australia have ended without a win.
The good weather and true pitches tend to equal positive results, plus a healthy dollop of Australia generally being utterly superior to their opponents. This time, however, that isn’t the case. England and Australia appear to be fairly well matched – so close, in fact, that some have said they’ll cancel each other out, resulting in plenty of draws.
This theory forgets that both sides have a habit of suffering the kind of comedy collapses both Devon Loch and Neighbours’ Jim Robinson would be resentful of. Put a dog on a skateboard and you’ll get a decent impression of the stability of both side’s middle-orders.
Since the start of Australia’s home series against South Africa in 2008-09 (their first series defeat on their own turf for 16 years), they have been bowled out for under 250 11 times in 23 Tests (seven times for under 210).
England haven’t been nearly as bad – five all-outs for under 250 in their last 23 Tests (three times for under 210) – but with nearly all of their batsmen out of form, the big red button is always in touching distance.
Australia no longer seem to have the ability or belief to turn certain losses into draws so we’re relying on England, the sweaty-draw masters. And yes, it’s inevitable that Steven Finn will at some stage hang around valiantly for 26 balls to stave off defeat and induce heart palpitations. Maybe, just maybe, it will happen twice. But three times? Not in Australia.
Daniel Brigham is assistant editor of The Wisden Cricketer.
Follow him on Twitter: WisdenCric_Dan