Sitting watching the Ashes yesterday I turned to Tim and admitted it. “You know those people the newspapers talk about who are suddenly interested in cricket? I’m one of them.” “Me too” he replied. Out of respect for the frayed nerves and fingernails of the real fans I have kept my questions mum, especially as most of them are “So how come that wasn’t out and that was?”. I don’t have to understand all of it to appreciate it – the tension, the ebbs and flows of advantage, the tactical acumen (because it’s slow-moving tactical decisions are easier to grasp for the newcomer than they are in football, I think).

I guess the thing I’ve liked most about this series is the way that so much turns out to hinge on how well the tail perform – the Australian tail in the second and third tests, the England one yesterday. Like most sports, cricket requires a range of specialised skills: unlike most sports, cricket is set up so that people whose specialised skill isn’t batting have to go and bat. Watching football you get this occasionally, when a goalkeeper desperately heads up the pitch for a last corner, or takes a penalty in a shoot-out. But it isn’t written into the everyday experience of the game. It means that the outcomes of great sporting events can turn on the unusual and joyful heroism of people who aren’t especially good at something* gritting their teeth and doing it anyway.

*relative to specialists, not to the rest of us.