Sadly, we’re not likely to see anything better than 2005 Ashes

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THEY say that time flies when you’re having fun, which is why I find it even harder to believe that eight years have flown by since the 2005 Ashes.

Why, it seems like only yesterday, only a blink in time since I covered for this newspaper what many called the greatest Test series ever played.

Can it really be that long since those tickertape celebrations at Kennington Oval, followed by the infamous open-top bus parade around Trafalgar Square?

Gosh, I hadn’t even got my own bus pass then, while the world had yet to discover Twitter, Lily Allen or the Carnegie Pavilion – and not necessarily in that order.

In those far-off days, when 140 characters or less referred exclusively to the contents of the sporting world rather than social networking parameters as well, England and Australia contested a humdinger of a Test series.

Michael Vaughan’s England won it 2-1, the abiding memories stirred anew by the 2013 version that starts at Trent Bridge on Wednesday.

Sadly, I won’t be covering this summer’s Ashes; journalism, like any industry, has had to face some stiff financial realities in the interim, while, quite frankly, I’d rather be watching Yorkshire’s pursuit of their first County Championship title since 2001.

Thanks in no small part to Yorkshire first-team coach Jason Gillespie (an iconic link to the iconic series), Yorkshire are on course for some tickertape celebrations of their own at the Oval come September – scene of their last Championship match of the summer.

Of course, the reason the 2005 series seems like only yesterday is because – in stark contrast to most sporting events – it left such a lasting impression.

It was enduring rather than ephemeral; its impact was felt beyond the narrow confines of professional sport.

In that summer of twists and turns, jangling nerves and unrelenting excitement, cricket not only knocked football off the back pages but it knocked news off the front pages.

The series captured the imagination not just of cricket fans but people who hitherto primarily associated the word “cricket” with an insect that produces a chirping sound.

As it turned out, skunks, rather than crickets, were the animals of that summer.

Specifically, the skunk haircut that Kevin Pietersen sported while cracking a century at the Oval that helped clinch the series for the hosts.

It was all so horribly un-English, and yet it was all so horribly good, Pietersen announcing himself with a thrilling display in the days when it was a lot easier being Kevin.

In fact, my own abiding memory of that series was not of Pietersen’s century at the Oval or any specific moment as such.

It came on the Saturday evening of the First Test at Lord’s, when the great Shane Warne was bowling to Pietersen.

With the grand old ground bathed in soft sunshine and shadow, and as the debutant Pietersen took the attack to Warne in front of a full house, I looked down from my perch in the media centre – vat of wine at hand – and remember thinking cricket does not get any better.

Nothing I have seen in the interim has changed my opinion, and I very much doubt that anything will.

Ah, the great Warne...

It wasn’t really England versus Australia, was it? It was England versus Warne. An increasingly unstoppable force against a seemingly immovable object.

The records show that Warne took 40 wickets in that series, 16 more than anybody else on either side, and that despite some well-documented personal problems.

What cruel irony that he, of all people, dropped Pietersen in the slips at the Oval off Brett Lee.

Pietersen, 15 at the time, went on to 158 and Australia would probably have won if Warne had caught him.

Ifs, buts and maybes...

They are invariably part of sport at its best – and it doesn’t get better than the 2005 Ashes.