Just hours to go before the biggest series in the sport, undoubtedly the biggest test series in the game with daylight second, one of the oldest sporting rivalries, one of the greatest sporting rivalries. For English and Australian cricketers nothing is bigger than playing in an Ashes series, even a World Cup final is behind. This is where careers are defined, generations are remembered, legacies are created.
There can be nothing more examining than a 5 match test series which is heavily anticipated for months and months.
This is where you're technique, temperament, mental aspects, character, talent, game plan, endurance, hunger is tested the most above anything else.
This time we are having 10 Ashes tests in the space of 6 months as both sides do not want to be playing an Ashes series in the 4 months build up to the World Cup as has been the case and hence the series in Australia has been brought forward a year. This can only make a grander challenge.
Personally, I have much more interest in test cricket than one day cricket. I will be following this monumental series more than a close to meaningless one day affair in the West Indies less than a month after a major Men's ICC World Event has concluded.
Expect England to dominate at home, but there is renewed sense of energy in the Australian camp following the appointment of Darren Lehman as head coach. The last time England lost a home Ashes series was in 2001.
The series in Australia starting in November is perhaps more closely contested, but with team instability, huge retirements, defeat in their last 4 tests and the superiority of England on home shores barring when they play South Africa will mean you are a brave man to predict an Aussie win. Everything suggests England will dominate. They are expected to do that.
2 key areas that will be critical
1) England batters vs Aussie pace attack
2) How Australian left handers play Graeme Swann
Talking of Graeme Swann, he has been tipped to be the main player of the series and I reckon he will be player of the series. The best 'conventional' attacking off spinner in history for many. With the left handers in the Aussie line up and the way the Aussies struggled against the turning ball in India should mean he is in for what could be his greatest series. His operation has gone smoothly and there should be no issues on that front with him taking 10 wickets at Leeds in May and being rested for the Champions Trophy with the Ashes in mind and higher on the agenda.