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A sad Ashen look

india Updated: Aug 24, 2009 23:20 IST

With the ‘Poms’ claiming the Ashes in style, one of the world’s greatest sporting rivalries seems to have come a full Oval. A historical face-off that began 107 years ago after Australia beat England on English soil for the first time, has thrown up another first — an Australian captain who has lost two series to England while at the helm. It’s not just the coveted urn and the top spot in Test cricket rankings that’s slipped out of the Australians’ grasp, but also dominance over a game that has been groaning under their supremacy for more years than other teams would choose to remember.

Unseated by the Brits in 2005 after a near two-decade reign over the series, another stunning loss to England seems to have tilted the balance of power in the Ashes — as well as warmed the hearts of millions tired of watching their teams lose to those indomitable men from Down Under. Could the bails finally be coming off to end the innings of yet another empire, this one led by a man called Ricky Ponting? With their previous triumph having been dismissed as a mere blip on the radar, after a 5-0 Australian recovery in the 2006-07 series, England have followed up on their 2005 shocker with a convincing win, giving many in the cricketing world reason to rejoice over the apparent decline of the Arrogant Aussies. Besides the tumble from the top spot, what must sting most for the boys from Oz is to have lost despite having a better team as well as history on their side.

From sparring headlines in both countries to controversies like bodyline bowling and the substitutes’ row more recently, the colourful rivalry has seen vicious battles both on and off the field, coloured by a colonial past. For now the English team’s riding the crest as the Aussies wallow in the trough of defeat. As they say in the rough and tumble world of international cricket: Ashes to Ashes, boom to bust.