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Moment that mattered: England retain the Ashes

England captain Andrew Strauss celebrates after the fourth Ashes cricket test against Australia at the MCG in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010. England won by an innings an 157 runs and retain the Ashes. (AP Photo/Andrew Brownbill)

The moment England clinched the Ashes at Melbourne was magnificent, and ended a 24-year wait for me and the nation’s cricket fans. Since Mike Gatting’s men triumphed back in 1987, England teams led by Graham Gooch, Mike Atherton, Alec Stewart, Nasser Hussain and Andrew Flintoff have been defeated emphatically in five series.

In the last 16 Ashes series in Australia before this winter, England had won only four times (1954-55, 1970-71, 1978-79 and 1986-87). Four years ago, they lost the Tests 5-0!

When we last retained the Ashes down under, I was 14. The BBC showed highlights and some live play, but nothing like Sky’s comprehensive coverage. It all seemed so exotic and exciting.

During my research for my book I realised just how difficult it would be for Andrew Strauss’s side to hold on to the urn this winter. I interviewed 23 former players, including Alec Bedser just before his death last year aged 91, remembering 64 years of Ashes series in Australia and they identified why England fail more than they win. There is the heat, the alien conditions, the gruelling travel, and the hostility of the home players and crowds, who have verbally abused visiting fielders, or shelled them with food and cans filled with urine.

John Lever was told: “I’ve seen better-looking heads on a crab.” A waiter approached Marcus Trescothick and said: “You know you’re going to get your arses kicked, don’t you?’ In 1994-95, our fielding was so bad the music from ‘The Muppet Show’ was played over the loudspeakers!

All those factors show why this latest triumph is so exceptional, and why we must savour it. And then came Sydney…

Huw Turbervill is the author of ‘The Toughest Tour: The Ashes Away Series Since The War’ (Aurum Press/Telegraph Books)

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