Book review: Ashes 2011 by Gideon Haigh

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No sooner has the last ball been bowled and hey presto, there’s a book to celebrate England’s record-breaking Ashes victory in Australia.

Most pundits gave England only a modest chance of success in the winter rematch; some, like former Aussie bowler Glenn McGrath, predicted that history would repeat itself and Australia would administer another whitewash.

What nobody anticipated was that the touring side would produce one of their most complete performances ever and the first Ashes victory on Australian soil for 24 years.

Acclaimed sports writer Gideon Haigh, who covered the series for both The Times and Wisden Cricketer, tells the full story of this magnificent sporting achievement from the carefully planned build-up to a day-by-day coverage of each of the five Tests.

It was a series full of remarkable records, including three innings victories for England, and every member of the touring side made crucial contributions.

The cracks in the Australian side had started to appear when they came to England in the summer of 2010 to play Tests against Pakistan and one-day internationals against England. The breaches in their wall widened during Tests in India and one-day internationals against Sri Lanka at home.

But on the first day of the first Ashes match at Brisbane on November 25, they silenced the doubters when their bowler Peter Siddle took a brilliant hat-trick on his 26th birthday.

By the end of the last Test on January 7, it was a very different picture; the Aussies were well and truly down and out, losing the series by a crushing 3-1.

England, meanwhile, arrived in Australia after a year of quiet consolidation and, after a rocky start at the Gabba in Brisbane, they united in confidence, determination and joy and went from strength to strength.

They started to bat and catch superbly, their ground fielding was electric and their running between wickets was outstanding.

Haigh reckons much of their success was down to a newly discovered feelgood factor, a sense of fun and happiness among the team which, in this case, seemed to beget success as well.

A winning team, it is claimed, will always be the happier one.

Along with his trademark pithy match reports and elegant analyses, Haigh’s entertaining and comprehensive account is backed up by memorable pictures to help us relive a classic sporting triumph.

(Aurum, hardback, £12.99)