Short of any thoughts of my own, I step aside for the master:
I have worked out the real reason why England have — barring the . . . etc, etc — lost the Ashes and am prepared to name the real culprits. Stand up and be blamed, Ricky Ponting, Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne. It’s your fault that England have been beaten. You have let England down by playing some wonderful bloody cricket.
It has become one of those unmentionable things. When England lose a match in any of the leading sports, every possible reason for failure is debated except the most important one of all, that the opposition played better. So hear a shocking truth — there is no rule in sport that says the opposition are not allowed to do so.
And that has been the truth of the matter. England have made mistakes, and we shall come to them in due course as the series continues to unravel, but the fact is that Australia won because they are better at cricket. They played better when it counted.
Defeat is not entirely a moral failing of the England cricketers and their coach. England have been up against three of the best ever to play the game: Ponting is in the form of his life and McGrath and Warne, in their declining years, are better than most other bowlers at their peak.
Grit your teeth and admit it, it has been a privilege to watch them. If you didn’t feel enriched by seeing this trio in action over the past three matches — three men on a mission to set things right after their defeat in England in 2005 — then you don’t really have sport in your soul. Only partisanship, and that is a poor thing on its own.