35 days

Sociologists could probably write a library of books discussing what it is about Australians that makes them so easy to dislike.

Perhaps it is the millions of peroxided twenty-somethings that choke the London Underground, seemingly with the sole intention of being rude, pushing ahead of you and tell you to “Git owt ah the why.”

It could be their appalling idea of what consitutes beer.

Maybe it is the inexplicable, tub-thumping nationalism of a nation of convicts, comedy mammalia and desert so inhospitable people only went their as an alternative to being hung.

Maybe it is because more and more, as England disintegrates, I secretly wish I lived there.

Maybe a bit of all of it. But whatever it is, it made watching the West Indies wipe the smug grin of Brett Lee’s face very fun indeed. 

There was plenty of blame to go round for Australia; Lee’s golden duck, McGrath getting carted, the tail batting horribly, Ponting going for 1, and to be fair, the Windies bowling very, very well.

Looking forward, Saturday’s match has now taken on yet more intensity.

While the bulk of the focus will still be on getting the mental edge before next month, both sides are now fighting to stay in the tournament. While neither really care about winning it, neither wants be first on a plane to Brisbane.

Everyday the teams come up with new reasons why this match does not matter. And everyday it becomes more obvious how desperate they are to get at each other. 35 days is just to far away for both of them. As Ponting, Flintoff and the rest read out placatory statements, you can see them pawing the ground under the table.

Saturday, and the Ashes, will swing heavily on the performance of two men; McGrath and Harmison. Both have the chance to strike knockout blows in the opening overs, both have done it before and both are very out of form.

Whichever of these starts to come good first will probably swing the urn. 

Warne and Monty will both take wickets all winter, it is a foregone conclusion. But if one of the two openers can take two or three early on, it would change the course of the match. Expect these two to be the deciders on Saturday and next month. 

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