Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Was/Were the Ashes settled by the toss?

As most of you cricket fans out there know by now, England finally regained the Ashes after a gap of 18 years, beating Australia 2-1 in the five-test series. There is no doubt that the English team is far better than it has been in ages, just as there is no doubt that the Aussies are finally on the decline. Their ineptitude in the absence of McGrath was exposed as early as a couple of years ago by the touring Indians who nearly pulled off an upset win before settling for a drawn series.

But for all that, I can't shake the feeling that this Ashes series was eventually decided by the toss. Of the five tests, the team winning the toss either won or held the upper hand in every test but one. The lone exception was the Edgbaston test where Ricky Ponting went temporarily insane and put England into bat. As Geoff Boycott put it, "He's a lovely guy, that Ricky Ponting. He likes the English so much he changed the series for them with the most stupid decision he'll ever make in his life."

This series is hardly the exception when it comes to the toss playing a significant role in the outcome in matches between evenly matched teams. We need only to look back to the Australia and Pakistan tours of India in the 2004-05 season to find that all five decisive tests were won by the team winning the toss.


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