Every four years the cricket season takes on a special edge as the Australian team arrive to continue the oldest rivalry in the sport. Since 1876, England and their colony have met on the playing fields and the Ashes urn has been the focus of that contest since 1882. I have been lucky enough to have been on three Ashes tours to the Old Dart and played in three more on home soil. Growing up playing cricket in the backyard was all about winning the Ashes and beating those bloody Poms.
No matter where the two teams are ranked at the time the contest is always extremely hard fought and the results don’t always follow the form book. The previous series in 2005 in England was a classic example of the underdog; in that case, the home team, raising their performance levels above the expected and delivering one of the biggest upsets in world cricket. Mind you, it was the most electric, tensioned filled series I could ever remember right down to the last hour of the final test match.
Ricky Ponting was in his first series as captain and couldn’t produce the tactics or skills to match an opponent that was sick and tired of getting beaten up by Allan Border, Steve Waugh, Shane Warne, Glen McGrath, Adam Gilchrist et al since 1987! He has vowed to avenge that disappointment this time around, in what could well be his final Ashes. He will have to do so with a much less credentialed squad than in 2005, with a number of contentious selections and certainly no spin bowler with a career record of vaguely the level of Warne.
Ponting does however have the rapidly improving left arm fast bowler Mitchell Johnson in his armoury. Johnson has been a revelation with the bat making two big scores including a maiden Test century in the final match against South Africa and his genuinely fast bowling was instrumental to the Australians winning in Africa. He will be joined by two others bowlers returning from injury in the shape of the experienced Brett Lee and Stuart Clark.
Both will have to earn their first XI spots in front of Tasmanian Ben Hilfenhaus. Lee at 33 may not recapture his old pace but Clark has the bowling nous and the technique to be successful in northern conditions. England’s psyche has been boosted by their recent success’ against the West Indies which points to this 127th year meeting being one of the closest.
The punter’s money so far is fairly evenly distributed with no clear favourite emerging. Australia has enjoyed mixed fortunes lately after losing in India and then again at home followed by a surprise victory in South Africa.
The new and youthful blood of Philip Hughes and Marcus North injected some vibrancy that had been lost through the recent retirements and stale methods.
Ponting will be relying on fresher legs and uncluttered minds to maintain the momentum garnered in Africa. Hopefully the World 20/20 Cup has not disjointed the Test match preparations and that my former team, Pakistan has gone a meagre few runs better than the previous Cup when they finished runner-up to India.
Meanwhile in other parts of the cricket world, Optometry Giving Sight has been active: Professor Brien Holden, Executive Chair of Optometry Giving Sight, travelled to Kegalle District in Sri Lanka for the opening of three Vision Centres staffed by four Vision Technicians who were trained for one year at the LV Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad, India.
The Vision Technicians perform eye examinations, prescribe glasses, refer patients to other eye care services and dispense glasses. Spectacles are made by two recently trained Spectacle Technicians in the Optical Workshop within the Yatiyantota Vision Centre and are distributed to the other Vision Centres.
The program receives funds thanks to Optometry Giving Sight donors and is implemented by ICEE. Also as our World Sight Day Challenge Ambassador, I am looking forward to meeting Optometry Giving Sight donors at Odmafair.