For cricketers, cricket fans and followers, the excitement and anticipation is over as the long-awaited day has arrived.
The start of another Ashes Test Series is here.
Yes, one of the world’s fiercest sporting rivalries – between England and Australia resumes battle this morning, all for the sake of a tiny brown urn.
Well, in part anyway.
But the five-match test series that kicks off at Trent Bridge in Nottingham today is more than that. National pride at stake, bragging rights (as such), and to a lesser extent Test rankings and a bit of prize money – the latter two are really lesser considerations it has to be said.
For once, England go into the Ashes series as favourites (and as many of us know it was not like that for many a year or series in the last few decades), however am I the only one who thinks that Australia are proverbial dark horses to take back the urn and will offer up a few unpleasant surprises to rock England’s boat?
Ok, Australia have had their problems. A few off-the-field dramas with one of their upcoming stars David Warner making his feelings known to one of England’s young talented stars Joe Root in a bar in Birmingham (Warner subsequently served a ban from all pre-series warm-ups).
Then Australia coach Micky Arthur was given the chop to unsettle things even more and in stepped former Test player Darren Lehmann (which was not a bad call). All this on top of what on paper looks an inexperienced Australia squad which has suffered some less-than-impressive results in their more recent Test series against India and then beaten by England in the last two Ashes series.
But never take anything for granted. In times of adversity, people pull together, none more so than those with a weight of expectation on their shoulders.
In his short time with the squad, Lehmann’s qualities as a leader looked to have not only stabilised matters but also galvanised the Aussies just at the right time. Plus he has international experience as a player (and Ashes winner) and has developed quietly into a useful coach, so knows what it is all about, what to expect and can translate that to some of his less-experienced charges.
And alongside skipper Michael Clarke (whose superb recent form if it continues may go some way to determining how well the Aussies will perform), you have a leader on-the-field growing in stature, even if team performances haven’t necessary earn the credit he is perhaps due.
And of course there is the Ashes effect, when recent form can count for nothing and it boils down to who can keep their individual collective nerve when it matters most as pride, passion and personality take over.
It all makes for an interesting seven weeks.
Just don’t write off Australia just yet though.
Ashes Test Schedule – Summer 2013
Wed 10-14 July – 1st Investec Ashes Test,Trent Bridge
Thu 18-22 July – 2nd Investec Ashes Test, Lord’s
Thu 1-5 Aug – 3rd Investec Ashes Test, Old Trafford
Fri 9-13 Aug – 4th Investec Ashes Test, Emirates Durham ICG
Wed 21-25 Aug – 5th Investec Ashes Test, The Kia Oval