Stokes is the key to England success in a series like no other
Evening Standard|December 07, 2021
IT IS always a relief when the Ashes begin, even if the first ball ends up in the palms of the second slip.
Will Macpherson

IT IS always a relief when the Ashes begin, even if the first ball ends up in the palms of the second slip. Normally, it marks the end of weeks of trash-talking and tortured build-up.

When weather permitting, the first ball is bowled at midnight tonight (10 am in Brisbane) — not by James Anderson, as many might have imagined — the relief will be different. This is an Ashes series like no other, one that has arrived by stealth.

For months, we wondered whether it would happen at all and, if it did, which Englishmen would travel to Australia, due to its hardline Covid-19 stance. The talk was all quarantine conditions and family tickets. After a year of posturing, the green light was given.

Next came the scandals. These two proud nations saw their cricketing cultures plastered across front pages for the wrong reasons. England’s issue ran deeper, as it faced a reckoning over institutional racism. Australia saw its cultural reboot rubbished when the captain resigned over lewd images and messages. Each side might reflect that the issues exposed by the crises are not isolated to their opponents’ nations.

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