AMONG my memories of my father is one of him buying a portable radio while we were on holiday in Cornwall to enable him to hear England regain the Ashes in 1953.

I am, therefore, a lifelong cricket fan, so I ought to be lamenting the emphatic three-nil (so far) drubbing inflicted by the Aussies on our lads Down Under.

But the trio of defeats, ensuring loss of the Ashes, is of indifference to me.

I’ve been lamenting the whole series almost from the start. Why? Because it is the first in which ‘sledging’ – verbally abusing opponents – has come to the forefront as a standard part of the modern game.

Cricket now consists of batting, bowling, fielding – and sledging. And arguably, against certain players the most crucial of these is sledging.

Australia’s key man is captain Steve Smith, the world’s best batsman. A centurion in the first Test, to stifle him in the second, England devised what captain Joe Root called “new plans”. These turned out to be mind games to upset him. Beyond a stream of “verbals”, depressingly trivialised by commentators as “chirping”, a fielder was positioned where Smith liked to stand at the non-striker’s end.

An umpire twice had to impose himself between Smith and the bowlers. For their part, the Aussies directed a string of verbals at England’s Jonny Bairstow. Smith passed responsibility for how far this provocation should go to the officials.

“The umpires and match referee are there to determine where the line is,” he said. So umpires must now watch as keenly for breaches of sportsmanship as they do for snicks or possible lbws.

Maybe international cricket has always had this nastiness, though I doubt it. Certainly such calculated unsporting behaviour never used to figure in local cricket, where it is now endemic. Next season, the North Yorkshire and South Durham League, in which I first played cricket, will have sin bins. Well, if I’d even been threatened with a spell in one of those, my parents would have disowned me.

Still, it’s possible I have always held too romantic a view of cricket. Back in 1776 a Kent player shot dead an Essex player in a row about eligibility.

My concept of cricket was more nearly expressed not many years ago by a world leader. “Cricket? It civilises people and creates good gentlemen. I want ours to be a nation of gentlemen. I want everyone to play cricket in Zimbabwe.”

Yes, this apostle of cricket as the civilising creator of gentlemen was none other than Robert Mugabe. Nuff said.

THIS Christmas will be the first in our home without our son, Stephen, who died, aged 53, in distressing circumstances last February.

But his Christmas card from last year is on our mantelpiece, where it will reappear every Christmas for as long as either my wife or I live.

In wishing you all a happy Christmas I think especially of those whose lives are clouded by tragedy, whether recent or perhaps from long ago. We all might well pray for relatives of the Grenfell Tower victims, the mother destined to learn her four children have died in a seemingly-deliberate house fire, and her relations who must give her that unbearable news.