England’s familiar role as Ashes whipping boys has been consigned to history after Alastair Cook’s career-defining innings in the series opener, the British media claimed yesterday.
Cook’s stunning 235 not out helped England to a total of 517-1 in their second innings, wiping out their 221 first-innings deficit and earning a confidence-boosting draw in the Brisbane Test.
“I’ve seen morale and self-belief go down the plughole,” Times columnist Simon Barnes said. “I’ve seen teams looking completely clueless. I’ve seen captains with their minds frazzled. But this time it was the Australians. Australia have become the new England.”
Mitchell Johnson’s wayward bowling for the hosts was the source of much merriment, with popular tabloid Sun labeling him “plonker of the day,” while BBC writer Jonathan Agnew called the Aussie attack “an utterly innocuous mess.”
Times columnist Gideon Haigh had some sympathy for the Australian scapegoat, blaming the Australian cricket authorities for his travails.
Former England captain Nasser Hussain urged his countrymen to heap pressure on Australian captain Ricky Ponting in the second Test, which starts in Adelaide on Friday.
“That was some statement from Alastair Cook and some statement from England,” he said. “Ponting was right: This wasn’t a typical Brisbane pitch, but then it wasn’t a typical Australian performance, either. And that will worry him greatly.”
Fellow former captain Michael Atherton — who bore the brunt of Australian dominance in the 1990s — barely concealed his amusement at hearing England fans singing “are you England in disguise?” to demoralized Australian fielders.
England’s “Barmy Army” supporters made up most of the crowd on the last day as the Australian public opted to stay away from the Gabba.
The Sun reported that an England fan asked former Aussie opening bat and pundit Michael Slater: “Is it fancy dress day? It looks like all the Aussies have come as empty plastic seats.”
Meanwhile, a woman from Massachusetts who has been bombarded with Twitter messages from cricket fans around the world could end up with a free trip to Australia to watch the game she says she knows nothing about.
The woman, whose Twitter username is “theashes,” began to gain a lot more attention as the 66th Ashes series got underway.
Her initial, plaintive response was to tweet: “I AM NOT A FREAKING CRICKET MATCH!!!” However, that only encouraged some mischievous Twitter users to tell others to follow her, and as her fan-base grew, so her attitude appeared to soften. By Sunday, she was inquiring about the rules of the centuries-old game.
That prompted a campaign on the micro-blogging Web site to “gettheashestotheashes” and Australian airline Qantas then posted the following on its Twitter account: “Qantas wants to see theashes in Australia. We’ll fly her from New York to Australia for the Ashes!”
Her initial following of about 300 had swelled to more than 7,000 by Monday and she has now started to cash in on her celebrity status by offering T-shirts for sale featuring her initial tweet.
The Web site of Australian newspaper Brisbane Times has revealed the woman to be 22-year-old babysitter Ashley Kerekes from Westfield, Massachusetts.
“I most certainly would not object to a free trip to Australia!” she told the newspaper. “I’m working with some people on some things. I intend on reading up on [the] rules and such as soon as I recover from the shock. Right now, I’m just having a blast reading everyone’s tweets to me.”