1. August 2009 19:45
It is so tempting to revel in the elements and congratulate Mother Nature for effectively ruling out any chance of an Australian win at Edgbaston. England could just about manage it, if they reached 450 tomorrow and then bowled the Aussies out in two sessions on Monday, but the prospect of the visitors taking 18 more wickets and having a second innings in the twelve hours remaining stretches the bounds of belief. So it's got to be advantage England.
Or is it? Andrew Strauss believes that an Ashes win is only meaningful if you take on the best Australian side there is. That's why he let Graham Manou sub in for the injured wicketkeeper, Brad Haddin, after the toss and the naming of teams on Thursday. Presumably he would also want to beat the Australians without the weather helping. But surely, you might say, you have to take whatever luck comes your way? I would say not. To follow that line of reasoning is to miss the essence of a victory against the old enemy.
You see, no-one whinges like the Aussies when they fail to win. If they have an excuse for a defeat, or even a draw, it is repeated ad nauseam. They failed to beat England at Lord's in 1997 because rain intervened. The same was said of Brisbane in 1998, with knobs on. England were let back into the 2005 Ashes contest because Glenn McGrath was injured at Edgbaston, an excuse which was wheeled out again at Trent Bridge. You get the idea. So, if England are to regain the Ashes this time, it's got to be all-out, full-strength warfare in blazing sunshine. And should we lose, we can tell anyone who'll listen that we'd have won if we'd had Kevin Pietersen.