Despite the very best efforts of the hype machine, this is not 2005. Retaining the Ashes, and don’t forget this is the first time in my cricket watching life that England have clung onto the prize in three successive series, was an oddly muted affair. Of course the Manchester rain ensured that the Australians were denied the opportunity to complete the deserved victory they needed to keep matters alive, but even that would have just delayed the inevitable. The problem is that the home side is simply better but is crumpling under the weight of its own negativity and siege mentality, while the visitors are winning the propaganda war, and the tactical manoeuvres, yet lack the resources on the frontline. Beating this lot is probably no big deal, but doing it in this manner is even less satisfying.
Andrew Strauss vacated the stage in suitably understated manner. There were no tears in the style of his predecessor but one, no recriminations over the events which soured his final months and, crucially, no regrets. He is not the first England captain to disappear in the blink of an eye. The job tends to drain its incumbent so completely that the end creeps up almost unnoticed. In retrospect, his resignation seems obvious, but it didn’t as recently as last week. Asked if he was the man to lead the team on their mission to reclaim the Test supremacy of which they had just been deprived, he seemed keen to carry on, but for the first time in his reign he was being disingenuous. The decision had already been made. It is the right one. A natural cycle has been completed but rarely can so amicable a farewell have been bid with so many questions still hanging in the air.