Michael Clarke was adamant before the start of the third Test at Old Trafford. "I honestly believe we can win this series. I know there's a lot of people out there that will laugh at me saying that. But I wouldn't be here today if I thought this team wasn't good enough to have success."
Clarke was partially right: people were laughing, though not at the thought that Australia could win the series. They were laughing at the idea that Australia could even win a single Test.
Yet after the opening day at Old Trafford, Clarke's words no longer seem strange. And what's more, there's a fantastic chance for the skipper to earn an almost unique place in history.
Clarke is Australia's best batsman of his generation, and the only member of the current side who'd get into the Australian glory line-up of the late 90s and early 00s. He's also the captain of a sinking ship, and a man in need of a miracle.
Luckily, he's in the position where he can make that miracle happen himself by making a truly epic score at Old Trafford; and what's more, he has the perfect inspiration in the great Donald Bradman.
The Australian legend felt anything but legendary when leading his men into the third Ashes Test in Melbourne in the 1936-37 series. Captaining the team in a series for the first time, Bradman's men were in bits: Australia had lost the first Test by 322 runs and the second by an innings and 22 runs.
They'd made a great start to the third Test after making 200 and bowling England out for 76, but their hopes were battered once again as they were reduced to 97-5.
In stepped Bradman, chipping away nervously at first on a brutally tricky wicket at the MCG, but growing in confidence until he ended up with 270 in what was acclaimed by Wisden as the greatest ever Test innings of all time.
Australia bowled England out for 323 to win the match by 265 runs; Bradman made 212 in the next match to lead Australia to an 148-run victory; and then he made 169 in the final Test back in Melbourne en route to a victory by an innings and 200 runs as Australia became the only team ever to recover from a 2-0 deficit to win the Ashes.
Cow isn't suggesting for a minute that it's likely that Clarke could produce an innings of 270 to wrest the momentum back from England. And even if he did, it's highly likely that the rain showers forecast for the next four days would make it very difficult for him and his colleagues to convert that knock into a victory.
Then again Bradman's innings wasn't likely, nor was it ever likely that England would turn around the Ashes series in 1981 or 2005 after awful starts.
All such heroic efforts start with one huge, momentum-changing performance, whether it was Bradman in the New Year's Day Test in 1937, Botham at Headingley in 1981 or Flintoff at Edgbaston in 2005.
Clarke has a chance to turn a great start into a series-changing innings. If he and Australia push on again on Friday, and if the predicted rain stays away, this could be one of those moments that goes down in Ashes folklore.
Or he might be out with the second ball of the morning, and that'd be that. But even if he does go quickly, Australia have already done enough to restore some pride and give themselves a fighting chance - both in the match and the series.
So Cow would like to say: sorry, Michael. Sorry for laughing. Nobody's laughing any more.
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- Donald Bradman
- Old Trafford