It does not matter whether England or Australia triumphs in the fifth Test which begins at the Oval tomorrow–the significance of this clash of two cricketing titans has already been established. England is again a power in the game and Australia is the struggling underdog. I see this this an early sign that England and Australia are trading places, not just in sport but in other walks of life as well.
England has been regarded as a class-ridden, arrogant, unreliable, condescending nation, in mourning for its lost greatness. Its sporting efforts have invariably ended in disappointment. Australia was the young, forward-looking, egalitarian country and its many sporting triumphs a symbol of its confidence.
The Rugby World Cup has ended with sweet, sweet victory for England and mortification for Australia. For weeks the Aussies have been accusing the Poms of being “smug” and “arrogant”, of playing “boring and unimaginative” rugby, of being “miserable people living in a cold, old country”. Will England now justifiably rub the Australians’ faces in the mud? And will relations between the two countries never be the same again?
Of course not. Nothing will change. England has been gracious in victory. The team paid tribute to Australia’s gallant effort. English supporters joined Australians in singing “Waltzing Matilda in the stands after the match. Yes, the Australian press reported the result under the headline “Read This And Weep”– and many did. But they were often consoled by English fans who know only too well what it is like to be “gutted” by your team’s defeat.