The ashes are on again. Like clockwork, every four years, the Australian cricket team begins their tour of England. The First Test begins on July 21.
Every time the new ashes series in England begins, I am reminded of the 1993 series simply because I was on my Honeymoon at the time. Memories of Michael Slater's Lord's century, Mark Waugh opening the bowling, Craig McDermott almost dying from a twisted bowel - those are the things I remember in conjunction with my honeymoon.
It is, however, the 1989 series that lives long in my memory. This series was the turning point for Australian cricket. From 1984 to 1989, Australia experienced the worst period of its cricket history. We had no bowlers who could dismiss the opposition twice, and we had batsmen who could collapse at the drop of a hat.
But after 1989, it all changed. Sure we kept losing to the West Indies, but that was finally put to rest in 1995. All other visitors to our shores came away defeated from that moment on. We had batsmen who could grind out centuries and bowlers who could take wickets.
The 1989 Ashes series was the beginning of a new era for Australian cricket. Arguably it began at the 1987 World Cup, and some of you know my distaste for one-day cricket, so I will admit that it was an important event - but not so decisive as the 1989 Ashes series.
Australia's batting during the series was phenomenal. Mark Taylor scored 839 runs at 83.90, Steve Waugh scored 506 runs at 126.50 batting at no. 6, Dean Jones scored 566 runs at 70.75. Allan Border and David Boon didn't score any centuries, but averaged 73.66 and 55.25 respectively. Only Geoff Marsh forgot to find form, scoring 347 runs at 31.54. Then there was the bowling. Who could forget the sight of Terry Alderman, ambling in like a robot with a smile, delivering ball upon ball directly at the stumps and convincing the umpires that the poor batsmen was out LBW? 41 wickets at 17.36 is darn good. Then there was Geoff Lawson with 29 at 27.27 and some spinner called Trevor Hohns with 11 wickets at the same average. Big Merv Hughes wasn't so successful, but managed 19 wickets at 32.36.
Australia won the series 4-0. Without rain, the result would have been 6-0.
Only two England players stood out - Robin Smith hit 553 runs at 61.44 - the only English batsmen to average over 40 in the whole series. Wicketkeeper Jack Russell, with his terry-towelling hat, was an ungainly and obdurate batsmen and was next on the list with 314 runs at 39.25. Gower, the captain, only managed 383 runs at 34.21 while the next best average was 32.75 by John Emburey. Apart from that, no England player averaged over 30. Gooch had a shocker - 183 runs at 20.33.
As for the England bowling - let's just say that the best bowling average was not below 35. Most of them were averaging 40 or more.
My memories - perhaps the strongest is the Australian batting at Nottingham where Mark Taylor and Geoff Marsh batted through the whole first day and eventually put on 329 for the first wicket. Close behind is the sight of Steve Waugh playing a forward defensive shot for four in his innings of 177 not out at Headingly. There is the constant memory of umpires raising their fingers to Terry Alderman LBWs, plus the sight of Jack Russell scoring 128 not out at Manchester, which only delayed the inevitable Australian win.
It was a golden time for Australian cricket - it was certainly an accurate promise of things to come. Terry Alderman didn't last much longer beyond that series, and players like Bruce Reid and Craig McDermott, who were part of Australia's successes in the early 1990s, were not touring.
The good thing now is that England is so much better. In 1989, the battle was between two rather mediocre sides in world cricket. In 2005, the battle is between the top two sides.
I have grave doubts over the ability of Australia to cope without Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath. Kasprowicz and Gillespie are fine bowlers, but their ability to force a win is something I doubt. Brett Lee? All I can say is 51.5-7-276-4. There is hope in Shaun Tait - but he is still an unknown quantity. Stu MacGill could possibly take wickets but his record in England isn't wonderful. I think that Nathan Bracken was unlucky in not being taken along, and should've been picked instead of Lee.
If McGrath and Warne get injured, I can see the England batting cutting apart the Australian attack. I can't see Australia's batting being too worried by England's bowling though - even if a few batsmen fail to find form, the chances of Australia's top 7 wilting consistently against Harmison, Flintoff, Giles (the King of Spain) and Hoggard is unlikely.
My Verdict? 2-1 to Australia.
From the This Salient Sporting Life Department