There’s one comfort in losing to England: you know they have been here before. Not too long ago, the Australians handed a 5-0 whitewash to the English in a much more important series (in terms of cultural and historical significance) than this one.
Why does this matter? When teams lost to the Australians, there was only bitterness left to be had. For boys of my generation, the Australian hegemony was complete, seemingly permanent and the only constant in the game. Losing to them was a rite of passage. They alone knew the rules of alchemy, and you could either resent or appreciate the way they conjured their spells. Losing to the English, however, is different. We know they are mortal. We know that in the space of a few years, they went from receiving that whitewash to handing out this one.
And so, a new logic of equality works in cricket now. It goes like this: “If they can do it, so can we…” It’s a line the Australians would never let you utter; so comprehensive the gap between you and them. The English should enjoy their current triumph, but they have yet to climb to Australian heights. There’s a line from Ecclesiastes they’d do well to remember: “I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”