No spark for England as Ashes have gone cold

Boyd Rankin, the fastest bowler in the England squad, could make his debut

There is no more stirring sight than the walk to the "G" on St Stephen's Day morning. Three years ago, almost 90,000 people were packed and stacked into the giant bowl of the MCG, and by teatime all but around 10,000 of them had upped sticks and gone home to their cold turkey as Australia were bowled out for 98.

It was a prelude to what, with 157 without loss at the close, was arguably the most emphatic day England have enjoyed in any series here, and thence to the retention of the Ashes and the sprinkler dance. Unless someone sets off the fire system there will be no sprinklers this year, no celebrations except in Australia's camp.

England, the Ashes already lost, will approach the match with all the good cheer of Christmas dinner with Oliver Cromwell.

Barmy Army sing
When the Barmy Army sing, to the tune of Sloop John B, that "this is the worst tour, I've ever been on", they speak for most. It has degenerated before our eyes, one catastrophe after another, so that the team have been reeling from Brisbane to Perth to Adelaide, like punch-drunk boxers bouncing off the ropes. It is getting hard to keep tabs on who is coming and who is leaving.

Jonathan Trott is long gone but Graeme Swann is still around despite having retired from all international cricket forthwith and long enough for people to get in a lather about a throwaway line that may or may not have been referring to his own team-mates but probably was not (as he himself subsequently verified).


The Durham leg-spinning all-rounder, Scott Borthwick, who has been playing grade cricket in Melbourne, has been added to the squad, and the off-spinner James Tredwell, who is part of the ODI squad for the series which follows the Ashes, will join them in Sydney.

New age
In theory, the fourth Test ought to be viewed as the first of the new age, although changes are likely to be limited, and almost certainly will not include any of the top six batsmen, which seems illogical unless it is realised that it is hardly fair to single out any one individual as being worse than another: they have all been ordinary.

The position of Matt Prior will be debated long and hard, and Andy Flower, the coach, and Alastair Cook, the captain, may decide, even given the departure of two senior figures, that it would be humane to give him a break now that his batting form has visibly affected his keeping. Prior is a proud cricketer of considerable achievement and has time on his side to resurrect his game but it is surely time to let Jonny Bairstow have the gloves for the rest of the series.

England will need to consider the balance of their side carefully. Should Broad not be fit, then it had seemed likely that Boyd Rankin, the fastest bowler in the touring party at present, would make his debut.
Guardian Service