HARARE – When two teams shape up in a series of matches, you are bound to be provided with nonstop entertainment.
The Ashes series between the holders of the earn, England, and Australia, who are desperate to retain the it got underway on Wednesday at Trent Bridge in the English County of Nottinghamshire.
Trent Bridge has a reputation of providing plenty of excitement and entertainment, and the Nottingham faithful have not been disappointed.
A combination of glorious weather and riveting cricket has got Test cricket’s oldest and most revered series off to the perfect start.
When England were bundled out for 215 on the first day, a collective groan of disappointment was clearly heard by those unlucky enough not to be there.
But, overhead conditions were more than favourable, and England's seamers took full advantage of the conditions by reducing the Aussies to 75/4 at the close of play.
Thanks in the main to Steven Finn, who removed Shane Watson Ed Cowen with successive deliveries.
James Anderson then caused total havoc when he produced an unplayable ball to knock captain Michael Clarke's stumps out of the ground.
But, the real hero of the Australian first innings was a 19-year-old batting at number 11.
When we normally compliment a number 11, it is because he would have stuck around, holding up an end while his senior partner scored all the runs.
The most memorable example of that would be Henry Olonga, who added 97 unbroken runs with Andy Flower against India back in 2000, before Heath Streak ruffled a few feathers by declaring the innings closed, leaving Flower 17 runs short of what would have been his first double century.
Olonga's contribution was underrated and hardly mentioned due to Flower's heroics, and of course the dreaded reverse sweep shot that seemed to have the commentators forgetting that cricket actually involved two teams, and not one individual.
19-year-old Ashton Agar on the other hand, took everybody by surprise. Escaping a fortuitous stumping that may have been given out when he was on six, the left handed number 11 not only frustrated the England bowlers, but came out of his shell, as he went on to make a highly impressive 98 before being caught in the deep.
Agar now has the highest score by a number 11 making his debut in a Test match.
Has the reality of what he did really sank in? He is playing in Test cricket's most revered series against Australia’s oldest fore, and while other batsmen struggled, he made batting look very easy.
Agar was picked for his left arm spin, and has now shown his selectors and team mates that he is most certainly capable of not only holding up an end, but scoring runs at double quick time as well.
When a team sees one of their teammates play such a special knock, or put in a extra ordinary performance with the ball, it must surely give the entire team a massive boost and make them realise that even though they are the underdogs, they are capable of not only competing, but even pulling off a surprise.
Although I have made it publicly clear that I am an Australian supporter, I have to say that it is more than likely that England will be retaining the earn.
Australia are still a good team who still have many of the attributes that made them into the formidable team who dominated all forms of cricket from the 90s to the mid 2000's but, they have lost all their key players in a very short space of time.
Now, the once all conquering team will have to regroup and turn their talent into world beaters.
Only time will tell if their talent will actually become world beaters. Interestingly enough, both teams do have areas of concern.
England seem to be unsure as to who will partner (captain) Alistair Cook at the top of the order, while the fourth seamer is still to be decided as Finn and Tim Bresnan fight it out game after game.
The outcome will probably favour England, but, for those of you who follow the Ashes, fasten your seat belts, and enjoy the ride!!!
Cricket's oldest rivalry has begun, and it promises to be as good as ever.