First there was this:
IF we don't hate them, why do we love to beat them? Why is it Australia, above all other nations, that we like to beat at sport? Why is it that defeat at the hands of Australia is one of the most painful sensations that sport can offer? Why is it that sporting encounters between England - or Great Britain - and Australia are fought with such extraordinary intensity?
THERE have been disturbing signs in this Ashes series and not just Mitchell Johnson's inability to hit the pitch. Australia's defence of the urn is not all that is precariously poised.
"… But this current Aussie side are not just the most mediocre bunch of cricketers we've seen in the baggy greens for 30 years. They're also, in my view, the weakest when it comes to character. And they're led by a man whose brilliance at batting is only matched by his brilliance at avoiding any accusations of having a personality. Ricky Ponting is a fantastic player, one of the best we've seen. But he is also about as exciting on the palate as a pack of three-year-old Quavers; a grim-faced, gumchewing, permanently whining, early winner of the Small Man Syndrome award for 2009. And most of his team look almost exactly like him: crop-haired, non-smiling, antipodean androids. Would you know North, Katich, Haddin, Hussey or Hauritz if they walked into your local pub? It's hard enough identifying them on the pitch. And that's Australia's biggest problem. With the exception of Ponting, whose bat is the only stellar thing about him, they don't have any stars, anyone to intimidate or bully us. And for a country used to the likes of Lillee and Thomson, the Chappells, Border, Merv Hughes, the Waughs and that whole magnificent 2006-07 whitewash team, this is seriously bad news."
When I first went to England in 1987 - England held the Ashes - cricket talk with the locals was not exactly a genteel affair, but it was good fun nevertheless. (The Pilbara, with wall-to-spinifex Poms, was the same.) Now, on the back of jingoistic flannel, professional fans, fat-headed coverage, lad culture first in the UK (Loaded, etc), then here in copycat Australia (Ralph, etc), cricket support is an altogether nasty business.
Watching the Tests from afar it looks to me like cricket hooliganism is on the rise. What's the bet that, before this series is over, there's a big punch up at one of the three remaining Tests.