Imitation is the best form of flattery

Ian Chappell, the former Australian captain, articulated it, but for a long time most of his countrymen thought it, too. ‘The best cricket blueprint is to note what England do, and do the opposite,’ said Chappell some years ago, outlining not just a dismissive attitude towards English cricket but a deep confidence in all things Australian. How times change.

When England trampled over Ricky Ponting’s Australians two winters ago, it was like watching an admired friend grow old before our eyes. Before the series started, even, there was a lack of confidence, an uncertainty that many of us had never seen before in Australia. It was as if our friend had started to feel his age; the mind was willing- Ponting spoke a good competitive game before the series- but the body, it turned out, was not.

By the time England did their famous sprinkler dance in front of the hordes in Sydney, having inflicted three innings defeats on Australia, any pretence of youth and virility had been stripped away. The passing years had not been kind. Old age was upon our friend and suddenly that previous confidence and certainty was replaced by bewilderment. The world had changed and suddenly it looked a very different place, unrecognisable almost. Old age can creep up quickly.

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