After the emotion of the Cricket World Cup, purists will hope that the longest form of the game can ride that wave of excitement as England host Australia in The Ashes.
Thursday’s first Test takes place at Edgbaston before the old enemies do battle at Lord’s, Headingley, Old Trafford and The Oval.
Both have selection dilemmas to ponder and with plenty of twists and turns, it is sure to be a rollercoaster renewal in the battle for that famous urn.
With England making just 388 from their two innings against Ireland, there are big question marks over not just the make-up of the batting line-up but also the order.
The bowlers are therefore going to be key and Chris Woakes looks a man playing in his prime. While handy with the bat, it is the 30-year-old’s ability to target outside off-stump that stands him in good stead and he has proved himself valuable with the new ball.
Extra motivation will be provided with the opening Test taking place at his home ground in Birmingham, where he took 3-20 against the Aussies in the World Cup.
Additionally, he took 6-17 in a stunning spell at Lord’s to demolish Ireland and all in all, it looks his time.
Life has changed significantly for Steve Smith since captaining his country to a 4-0 success in the last Ashes, top-scoring in the series with 687 runs.
Since then he has been banned for his part in the ball-tampering scandal, as a result losing his leadership role, but is on the road to redemption, averaging 37.9 at the World Cup.
One of his accomplices in the scandal, David Warner, may have scored more but Smith is better suited to the Test arena and has an annoying habit of being able to bat all day.
The 30-year-old’s average of 61.37 shows just how strong he is at the crease and if he finds some form, he is sure to be a thorn in England’s side.
While much of the English focus has been on limited-overs cricket in recent years, they remain a fine Test side and have not lost on home soil to Australia since 2001.
The issues surrounding the top of the order are undoubtedly a worry but Australia have similar issues, even though Cameron Bancroft has returned after his ban for his part in the sandpaper scandal. It is sure to be a thrilling summer but expect England to regain the urn after their poor showing Down Under in the last series.
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