2005 and all that
Thursday 21 July 2005 - First Test, Lord's, day one
Justin Langer, hopping around at the crease and swatting wildly like a man being attacked by a hornet, also wears plenty. Even Matthew Hayden, the sadistic prison guard to Ponting's waspish governor, isn't spared.
Australia all out for 190. Shame England go and lose seven wickets before stumps. Glenn McGrath wielding the stiletto, the taste of Ponting's blood receding further with every thrust.
Friday 23 July 2005 - First Test, Lord's, day two
Never commit to England. They give you hope, and then they let you down. All out before lunch for 155. Same old, same old. Still, at least this South African kid with the dopey hair looks a bit handy.
Saturday 23 July 2005 - First Test, Lord's, day three
At a wedding in Macclesfield. England five down for 115 in their second innings. "Turn that rubbish off, Dirs," says the best man as I watch forlornly in the hotel bar. "Who gives a monkey's about cricket anyway?" "Not me," I reply weakly, "I'm never watching cricket again..."
Thursday 4 August - Second Test, Edgbaston, day one
I wake up to discover McGrath's trodden on a ball and is out of the Test - perhaps the series. Maybe I'll watch for an over or two.
A few hours later, I'm pretty sure cricket's the greatest sport on earth: Marcus Trescothick's got Brett Lee by the Gladstones and he's giving him a damn good thrashing. Ponting put England in, which makes each thrash sound sweeter.
Shopping up West, and I'm crouched down in front of Dixons. This is how I imagine people watched Derek Underwood run through the Australians at Headingley back in 1972. Except, back then, it was probably Rumbelows.
Everyone now seems to accept that this South African kid called Pietersen is actually English, and he's at it again. This time Freddie Flintoff's joining in, and now it's him bending Lee over his knee.
Five maximums for Flintoff, two over cow corner off Shane Warne, Australia's Grand Inquisitor. England all out for 407, scored at more than five an over. I can feel something brewing.
Saturday 6 August - Second Test, Edgbaston, day three
England have had more New Bothams than Warne's had Silk Cuts, but today Flintoff proves he's for real. I think one of his sixes off Lee went into the confectionery stall and out again. And yes, I do mean the one at Headingley.
Having muscled the pendulum back England's way with the bat, Freddie bowls one of the great overs in Test cricket later that day. Langer castled, Ponting bamboozled by a leg-cutter. Australia 48-2.
And what about that for a slower ball by Harmison to young Michael Clarke? Actually, it was so badly disguised, it may as well been wearing a diamond-encrusted jacket with 'Slower Ball' emblazoned across the back. Still, that just made it funnier.
Sunday 7 August - Second Test, Edgbaston, day four
I'm slumped in front of my computer at work and I feel like crying. That's not an exaggeration. I'm a grown man, and I actually want to cry.
All the morning papers assured me England were on the brink of victory. So how come Australia only need four more runs to win? Of course, it's that swine Warne again, and this time with the bat. And here's Lee and Kasprowicz proving - as if it needed proving - that when the fat lady's singing, the Aussies will still be swinging.
Not the time for full-bungers outside off, Harmy... oh my days, it's a full-bunger outside off. It takes an age to reach Lee's end. It's like the anticipation of my first Holy Communion/French kiss/dive for a rubber brick all rolled into one. Lee makes a crisp connection... and finds a fielder out on the boundary. Amen.
One ball later, and I am crying. At least, I'm doing that man thing where I'm crying while pretending not to cry. Kasprowicz c G Jones b Harmison 20. Freddie knows the score - not the time to be larging it. Go over to that nice man Lee and shake his hand, he's liable to be very angry the next time you meet.
Thursday 11 August - Third Test, Old Trafford, day one
McGrath's back, but the England skipper saves his best for this mob. Elegance is a Michael Vaughan cover-drive, and there are plenty of them in his regal 166.
Monday 15 August - Third Test, Old Trafford, day five
A friend tells me his dad is struggling to finish a building job because him and his gang keep stopping to listen to the cricket. His dad's from Tipperary, his gang from all over Ireland. There's not a person in the country who doesn't give a monkey's about cricket now.
My Australian colleague doesn't say much, until stumps are drawn, and Australia have somehow saved the match with a wicket to spare. Then? Let's just say Scott lets his hair down.
Tuesday 16 August
Two early phone calls: one from my Australian colleague's wife to tell me he got a kicking after I left and that he's now in hospital, another from the bank to say someone's spent £1,000 on my credit card. "Was that you Mr Dirs?" "Nope." This series is becoming more than just emotionally draining.
Friday 26 August - Fourth Test, Trent Bridge, day two
Freddie's at it again, this time thumping his first Ashes century. People call Flintoff 'rustic', but he's only 'rustic' in the way a luxury French-style kitchen might be 'rustic'. For there are plenty of polished straight lines to go with all those blacksmith heaves and hoicks.
But this is far from being Flintoff's Ashes. First it was Harmison giving the Aussies fits with the ball, then it was Simon Jones. Now it's the turn of that old dog Hoggard. Hayden cleaned up by an inswinger, the Bully Boy looks like he's batting with a length of two-by-four.
Saturday 27 August - Fourth Test, Trent Bridge, day three
Simon Jones' injury does have an upside, as it enables substitute fielder Gary Pratt to run out Ponting. Punter's face as he barges his way past the England players on the balcony is worth printing off again and again and sticking on your Christmas tree baubles. Even England coach Duncan Fletcher uses up one of his biennial laughs.
Sunday 28 August - Fourth Test, Trent Bridge, day four
There's me, my mate and our two girlfriends - both Irish, no previous interest in cricket - and we're huddled around my mobile phone in a remote cottage in Donegal as if it's about to reveal to us the meaning of life.
But all it does is vibrate every few minutes, informing us of another England wicket. First Trescothick, then Vaughan, then Strauss. "That swine Warne again," goes my phone. And again. And again. Except it doesn't actually say swine.
With Bell gone, England are 57-4 and still need 72 to win. Flintoff and Pietersen will see us home. Except they won't. Lee rips out the two of them, and England are still 18 short. What do you know, that handshake meant nothing.
Geraint's gone an over later, and they're into the bunnies. My brother's texting every run now. Hoggard, who all of a sudden fancies himself as a batsman, strokes Lee through the covers for four. Bedlam. A few minutes later, Ashley Giles clips Warne for the winning runs and a small cottage on the west coast of Ireland goes wild.
Monday 12 September - Fifth Test, The Oval, day five
Have a day off, Australia, just let us win them back. McGrath's got rid of Vaughan and Bell in successive balls... HAT-TRICK! PIETERSEN'S GONE! NO? Well done Billy Bowden, your histrionics are forgiven.
That's that then, we've gone and blown it. No way Warne's going to drop that. Chest high, looping towards him, that's a dolly. Whoops-a-daisy, how very regrettable, he's gone and dropped the Ashes...
I seriously think Pietersen's insane, not quite right in the head. It's the only way to explain his lunatic assault on Lee and Warne. Most of us shrink from the heat of battle, like paper curling in a flame. Not Pietersen. He grins maniacally, throws open his arms and dives headlong into the inferno.
Tuesday 13 September - Trafalgar Square, London
Not sure what Admiral Lord Nelson would have made of it all. After all, it's only a game. But better a Test series than a war to unite the nation. The most thrilling piece of sporting theatre I've ever witnessed. Judging by the scenes in Trafalgar Square, an awful lot of you think the same.
Can it ever be bettered? One thing's for certain, if England do manage to top it in 2009, Andrew Flintoff will be one seriously drunk man.