There is nothing quite like sport to bring out the old enmity between Australia and England. The often fractious relationship was thrown into sharp relief this week after England's cricket team won the Ashes, ending 16 years of heartbreak. The ignominy of losing to the old foe is still sinking in for Australia, long accustomed to winning on the sports field, particularly against the Poms. 'The pain runs deep,' admitted one television presenter; an anchor on a rival station said: 'We're all saying well done, but through gritted teeth.' Even Prime Minister John Howard, a self-confessed cricket 'tragic', was commiserating. Like millions of his countrymen he preferred not to dwell on the defeat itself, saying the real winner from the gripping series was cricket. Meanwhile, English backpackers and expats had a field day, taunting Aussies with an imaginative range of songs and chants in pubs and bars across the land. There were boisterous renditions of 'You all live in a convict colony', to the tune of The Beatles' Yellow Submarine, and a variation on Waltzing Matilda that leaves little to the imagination. 'We've beaten them at rugby, we've beaten them at cricket. Now all we have to do is learn to swim and Australia will be stuffed,' said Tim Wilson, 24, a London physiotherapist who could barely contain his glee as he drank in a Sydney pub and watched England clinch the Ashes. In many ways the animosity between Australia and England is a curious thing. After all, the two nations share the same language, the same queen and pretty much the same flag. British backpackers can't get enough of the beach-and-barbecue lifestyle, while a stint living in London is a rite of passage for thousands of young Australians. And yet the two countries love to niggle each other. The English cannot help feel affronted that they are continually beaten in sport by a former colony which has better weather, better food and a better lifestyle than the mother country. Australia, as a young nation, has come to define itself on the international stage by its sporting prowess. Sport has offered escape from 'cultural ignominy', the Australian author, Tom Keneally, said recently. 'While no Australian had written Paradise Lost, Don Bradman had made a hundred before lunch at Lord's.' The Australians are taking heart, however, from the fact that the next Ashes series is just 15 months away. Already they are preparing a counter-attack. Brooding over a beer in a Sydney bar this week, off-duty barman Jon Velasquez was one of millions plotting revenge. 'We'll be back. Don't worry about that,' he said.