I love test cricket. The sound of the ball knocking against willow is like a soothing balm providing a protective barrier from the chaos and stress of life. I can’t think of a sport that evokes a greater sense of calm than the Gentlemen’s Game (sexism).

My earliest memories of cricket come from childhood summer holidays at the Sunshine Coast. On these holidays my family’s daily routine had the same gentle rhythm as the thwack of bat on pads between the episodic sets of bowl-strike-catch which make up an over of cricket. In the morning we’d hit the beach for a few hours of jumping over waves and excavating sand into holes big enough to fit in, then we’d have lunch – usually sandwiches made on that chewy white bread that dieticians now consider carcinogenic. My parents, the geniuses, had raised my sisters and me to believe that naps were as essential to the human body as oxygen or food, so we’d stretch out on the living room floor or the couch, the tv would be on, and the cricket would begin with the rousing horn fanfare of Wide World Of Sports’ opening theme music before being replaced by that wonderfully nasal ball-by-ball commentary of Richie Benaud et al. Dozing on the couch with the cricket on, beach hair and the faint sound of the ocean; that to me is heaven right there.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m no tragic or expert of the game. I don’t know all the players, I don’t follow it at club level, and the technical elements go right over my head. My love of the game is not about the actual game itself, as much as it is a kind of romantic abstraction born from fond memories and positive associations.

Before I got married, me and my now-husband lived with a couple of friends with whom we started an annual tradition of taking the day off work and making an honorary holiday of the first day of the first test. We’d get a case of beer, relocate the TV onto our back deck, and participate in one of the most enjoyably Australian activities a person can do: get neck-deep in cricket and, when relevant, hate on the English.

This year, that day is today and the Australian cricket team is currently at the Gabba facing off against England in the first day of the 2013-14 Ashes Test series. The following reasons are why Ashes cricket is so great.

HISTORY
The first Ashes tournament was held in the 1882-83 season – old! – and is the basis of the long-standing rivalry between Australia and England. That, and the whole Colonisation/convict thing.

THE GREAT RIVALRY
Hating on the English team is the birth right of every Australian man, woman and child, and vice versa for those pommy bastards who call England home. Sledging, niggle, mass public trolling – call it what you will, vocalising anti-England sentiments is a vital tradition of the game, and chanting “BROAD IS A WANKER” with tens of thousands of people (most likely wearing zinc and terrytoweling bucket hats) really makes a person feel alive. And Broad is a wanker, that wanker.

Photo via the Stuart Broad is a shit bloke Facebook group:
A Love Letter To Ashes Cricket

YOU CAN READ THE ENTIRE PAPER WHILE WATCHING ONE GAME
Tests are such a long and, I admit, at times laborious process that you can enjoy other leisure activities while simultaneously watching the game; read the paper, play beer pong, cook an entire roast… This is why cricket is best watched in groups of four or more. Which brings us to the next point….

THE FANS
I don’t know why cricket attendees like wearing costumes so much. They just do.

A Love Letter To Ashes Cricket

A Love Letter To Ashes Cricket

A Love Letter To Ashes Cricket

A Love Letter To Ashes Cricket

A Love Letter To Ashes Cricket

IT’S THE ONE SPORT IN WHICH EVEN FAT PISS HEADS CAN REALLY EXCEL
Okay, let’s not celebrate the sport’s prevalence of overweight binge drinkers, but it’s cool that cricket is far more inclusive than so many other sports, such as diving or sprinting, where professional players require a certain in-born superhuman athleticism to really excel. In Australian cricket, chubbier fellows like David Boon, Shane Warne and Mark ‘Tubby’ Taylor can become gods because of their hand-eye coordination and masterful skill earned from relentless practice and muscle memory. For better or worse, Boonie’s “record breaking” consumption of tinnies on an international flight between Australia and England is the stuff of sporting legend. There’s a sense of accessibility with cricket that makes a person think to themselves, “I reckon I could do that.” This line of thinking has been responsible for a massive number of badly bruised shins. Also, in what other sport would you find a head coach who goes almost exclusively by “Boof”.

IT’S TREATED WITH THE REVERENCE IT DESERVES AFTER A LONG, FETED HISTORY

KFC restaurants have stripped their resemblance to historic cricketing rivals, England, by turning green and gold in the ultimate show of support to the Aussie cricket team.

A Love Letter To Ashes Cricket

Vogue Australia has paid homage to the game with a spread in the latest issue that was shot on a cricket pitch, starring Isabel Lucas.

A Love Letter To Ashes Cricket

THE MERCH IS NEXT LEVEL
You’ve got to hand it to the marketing folks at VB. They really know how to lure a cricket fan into buying a case.

For me and a lot of Australians the first day of the first test marks the official start of summer, so I’m pleased to say welcome back, summer. We’re well and truly ready for your return. And as for who is taking home the historical urn, win, lose or draw, Stuart Broad will still be a dickhead and that’s good enough for me.

To follow the test action head to the Cricket Australia website. And quick shout out to my mum who’s at the Gabba right now. Please throw a projectile at Kevin Pietersen on my behalf.

Images via Getty Images Sport unless specified otherwise.