Yes, technically, there are three possible results (Ashes won, lost, or drawn), but let’s not complicate things too much for now. We’re seeing a number of plot lines converge at the Oval Test, which must now also play the decider. Let’s focus on two:
1. If England wins, we may finally see the emergence of a new post-Vaughan team. Andrew Strauss’ accidental captaincy will be forever sealed, while the team’s other icons — Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff — hobble to the sidelines. I’d like to see the English selectors go ever farther and remove Alistair Cook at the top, put in a new No. 3 and possibly give Paul Collingwood some domestic practice. But the other newbies — Trott, Onions, Broad, the new Anderson — they make a very nice team going into the future.
2. If Australia wins, however, Ricky Ponting can heave a sigh of relief that the clouds looming over his team for the last year or two were only passing through. There’s no reason to quibble with Ponting’s captaincy, which, despite some huge embarrassments, has still been better than most. But for years, the better complaint was that anyone with eyes and ears could captain the Australian team to glory, since its players were too good. Since they moved on, Ponting’s tactical nous has been severely tested, and victory may finally give him the validation he’s sought.
A lot at stake, obviously.