Battle For The Ashes
Author: David Frith
Publisher: ABC Books
Rating: 4 stars
By Archie Mac
13 Feb 2006
David Frith was one of the few 'experts' to select England to win this Ashes series. Great messiah or knowledgeable cricketing expert? According to David Frith - neither.
It was all simply meant to be - an omen if you like. The fact that England had defeated Australia 100 years ago in 1905 meant that history would conspire to see England home.
Throughout the book, Frith continues to relay coincidences (or 'omens', as he calls them) even if some of them are a little tenuous in nature. I must confess after a while, I started to believe. The good news from an Aussie perspective is that Australia won the 1909 series after coming from behind, so it will be a good opportunity to fly over and give the Poms some stick. Unfortunately, history can't help us again until 1921 when the 100 years theory will once again come into play.
After dissecting some of the most recent Ashes series, the author - much to my delight - starts off his story of the 2005 series with a dissertation of the 1905 Ashes series, bringing to life some of the greats of the last century - from Victor Trumper and Clem Hill for Australia to CB Fry and AC MacLaren for England.
The series, however, belonged to the English skipper FS Jackson (Jacker) who not only led England to victory, but topped both the batting and bowling averages for the series, and won the toss on all five occasions as well!
What can you say about the 2005 Ashes series, which is still so fresh in the minds of all cricket fans? Plenty apparently. Frith covers just about everything conceivably imaginable, before, during and after what has been hailed the greatest series ever in the 128 years of Test cricket. He misses nothing and no one from Geoffrey Boycott to 'The Barmy Army'.
Frith is also prepared to criticise where he feels appropriate - 'the programming for the 2005 English season was lousy'.
He manages to recreate the excitement of the Test matches by providing urgency throughout his retelling of events on the field. During the last day coverage of the second Test for example, he delivers his views in a kind of shorthand 'which reflects the nerve-shedding nature of this memorable morning'.
It worked for me. After finishing the chapter on this Test, I threw the book down and stormed out of the house, taking the dog for an unexpected extra walk.
That's how much the re-awakening of this game upset me. At least the dog was happy.
Frith is one of those rare breed of Anglo-Australians - born in England, raised in Australia, and has commuted between the two countries ever since. One good thing about this, he says, is at least he 'never loses the Ashes'.
This is his 27th cricket book, all of which have been about Anglo-Australian cricket. This makes him uniquely placed to review this latest series with complete impartiality and unrivalled knowledge of the players, the countries and the history of that little urn.
A quick perusal of the internet located a dozen different publications on the 2005 Ashes series, but it would be hard to imagine that any of them could rival Battle For The Ashes.