To England fans of many years (such as Martin), the team’s 3–2 victory over the Australians in the 2015 Ashes bears all the hallmarks of a very English success story—partial, inconsistent, worryingly incomplete: the eggiest of curate’s eggs. All the narratives proclaiming a resurgence in English cricket—a young team that appears to be enjoying the game, a captain who has finally found his mojo as a leader, a batting order that while fragile is deep, and a fast-bowling department of substance—are hedged with caveats that observe that, man for man, Australia bested England, that England haven’t found an opener to accompany Alastair Cook, that England is weak in the spinning department, that England only win on English wickets, that Australia displayed more ineptitude than England did skill in the latter’s victories, that Jos Buttler and Ian Bell had better hit big runs soon, that Johnny Bairstow still hasn’t scored a Test century, and that Pakistan in the UAE and South Africa at home will represent the kind of genuine examination that playing Australia in England didn’t.
It’s easy to get carried away when you win—especially in circumstances that a few months ago seemed next to impossible. England were pathetic in the World Cup and timid in the West Indies. The shadow of Kevin Pietersen loomed over the team like Sauron over Mordor, and desolation and defeat seemed the only prospect ahead. But then Brendon McCullum and the New Zealand team charged over the hill, swords raised, and hope began to dawn (that’s enough Lord of the Rings metaphors—ed.). England got a taste for the Kiwis’ brand of cricket: fast, all-or-nothing, and likely to lose as much as to win. In such circumstances, 3–2 is the just the kind of scoreline that we should expect.
Last time England played Pakistan away, they lost, big time. They will probably lose big time again. Except, instead of 3–0, it might be 2–1. It might even be 1–2, to England, with that single Pakistan victory being a thumping, crushing, all-hope-extinguishing loss. It will be infuriating, exciting, dramatic, and, above all, the kind of cricket that people want to watch, players want to play, and the future of the game. The English phoenix is singed, sere, and burnt; it will fall into the flames again. But it will rise.