Is this the IPL or a Sunday park game?
Heading into the fifth Ashes chapter within just six years, I have taken a look at six big talking points in question with only a few days left before the first ball in Cardiff.
1. The impact of England coach Trevor Bayliss
Bayliss is an extremely knowledgeable and experienced head and his guidance will be beneficial for the home side. In similar fashion to Darren Lehmann in 2013 for Australia, the incoming England coach and experienced Australian mentor has arrived on the scene with the series about to get underway.
Bayliss is tipped to have a profound impact on English cricket, and hopefully for them it is immediate. Can his inside information of many in the Australian squad, particularly those under his guidance in New South Wales, give England an edge?
2. Selection dilemma
While it appears more clear now that Ryan Harris may miss the first Test (eds note: Harris has announced his retirement) due to his constant knee troubles, there is still another important call to be made.
Shane Watson or Mitchell Marsh?
Watson looked reasonably solid in the tour games, and I still have my money on him to be picked. However, twin centuries from Marsh in the opening two warm-up matches have greatly pressed his claim, and he is every chance to be picked. It’s a tough one for the selectors.
3. The elusive win away from home
Despite going through a golden era of sustained success in the early/mid 2000s, Australia has not won an Ashes series in England since 2001. Now they enter as favourites. Can they break a 14-year hoodoo?
4. Will Steve Smith dominate or struggle at number three?
Both Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad have had their say about Smith’s suspect technique recently, and despite Smith plundering 353 runs from four digs in the West Indies, it does raise the question whether he will thrive in possibly the most important position in the side.
Smith is in excellent form, and possesses the attributes to lock down this position as his own. Will he sink or swim as a number three? Only time will tell.
5. Do England need a frontline spinner?
The home side have drafted 27-year-old uncapped leg-spinner Adil Rashid into their squad for the first Test. However, I suspect they will use Moeen Ali for spin and doubt the prospect of England playing both.
They have more or less adopted this approach since Swann’s departure and it appears alternatives like James Tredwell, Simon Kerrigan or even Monty Panesar aren’t up to the task. Can England afford to play without a specialist slow bowler?
6. The sledge pledge
Interestingly, a lot has been made of possible sledging between the sides with multiple commentators and players having their say on the trivial topic. Some players are advocating it, others like Jimmy Anderson would prefer a series without it. Will we see more or less sledging between the two sides?
There’s no doubt we will know the answers to these intriguing questions soon.