Chris Rattue 's Opinion

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Majestic Ashes in danger of being a no-contest

16 comments
England's Joe Root drives during the fourth day of the second Ashes cricket test match between England and Australia. Photo / AP
England's Joe Root drives during the fourth day of the second Ashes cricket test match between England and Australia. Photo / AP

The New Zealand cricket team snatched a draw from the jaws of victory in Dunedin but it was tough concentrating on that match, despite excellent individual performances from both sides.

When the Ashes series is on, nothing else matters cricket-wise, even a titanic battle between our eighth ranked test mob and the sixth seeded West Indians, a team steeped in former glories.

There's hostility and history between Australia and England that makes it compulsory viewing.

Cricket has waned as a sporting interest in my world. I don't have any time for one-day cricket or T20, a sea of nothingness that is to the soul what a jackhammer is to a pane of glass.

And I don't have the time, quite literally, to spend hour upon hour digesting test cricket, and the only way to really suck up a test properly is to be there all the way. (From what I did see, the new spinner Ish Sodhi looks a decent prospect, though, which is exciting given that he is a wrist spinner.)

The Ashes is another story. It has a brutal majesty of its own.

This latest contest is in danger of being a no-contest because England has lost some of its bottle. After an era of English dominance, the fight isn't glowing in Alastair Cook's men, in the face of hostile and fine fast bowling from Mitchell Johnson.

There's nothing better in sport than watching a world-class fast bowler in full flight. Johnson reminds me a little of the greatest of all left arm quicks, Pakistani legend Wasim Akram, although no one will ever be as good as Akram.

Akram had a super quick arm, and late movement that made him impossible to play at times. Johnson isn't quite there, although a heck of a close right now.

Johnson has got England by the short and you-know-whats. If an exchange summed up the series, it occurred on Saturday when the English fast bowler Stuart Broad came to the wicket. Now here's a fighter, you thought. But after complaining about a reflection on the sightscreen, he wandered almost in defeat across his stumps and had the leg wicket smashed over by Johnson. It was like a bloke turning up to a gun fight with a feather duster.

Australia are cock-a-hoop and that's when they are at their most dangerous. Very strong minds will be needed in the English camp ... which brings us, to draw a bit of a long bow, to Sir Alex Ferguson.

Has there ever been a tougher man in the top echelons of professional sport?

Since Ferguson quit the soccer dugout English Premier League heavyweights Manchester United have collapsed - by their high standards - under David Moyes.

You had to marvel at Ferguson last season, because he won the title in a canter with a squad that wasn't actually that good. More than any of the stack of trophies he won, the 2012/13 premier league title belonged to him.

But then again, they probably all did. No one has played the mind games so well, coped with big ego stars, eked the very best out of players, developed from within and from elsewhere, known how to spot and sign a genius, bounced back, adapted with the times, and somehow found a way to win, like Alex Ferguson. It's the toughness of character that stands out. The constant pressure, year after year, and the ability to think and act so decisively under that pressure, was astounding. He managed that at United for over 26 years.

One bookie is offering odds of 10-1 that Ferguson will make an extraordinary return, replacing the beleaguered Moyes. It's an even greater long shot than that, but there are major commercial concerns for United to be factored in.

How fascinating it would be to see if Ferguson could work that magic, one last time. The EPL isn't the same without the old warrior and his various tricks. I'd love to see him back.

- NZ Herald

Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Read more by Chris Rattue

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n2 at 19 Apr 2014 00:46:37 Processing Time: 868ms