It was mostly a summer to forget for the Australian cricket team.
From numerous shortcomings on the limited overs stage to a first-ever Test series loss on home soil against India, the turmoil from the events of sandpapergate some eight months prior were without a doubt surfacing for all to see.
A complete domination of Sri Lanka to finish the summer would offer some sort of reprieve for Tim Paine and his men, as the likes of Shaun and Mitchell Marsh, Aaron Finch and Peter Handscomb all became casualties of a selection overhaul in mid-January.
This would see Marnus Labuschagne, Kurtis Patterson, Joe Burns and Jhye Richardson given opportunities in a new-look Australian side that, although facing sub-standard opposition, seemed to gel on the field and performed well as a result.
So, with the much-anticipated return of former captain and vice-captain Steve Smith and David Warner just under two months away, what will the Australian Test side look like when it next takes the field for the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston on the August 1?
1. David Warner
A potentially controversial pick that in reality should be a no brainer, the successful return of David Warner to the top of the batting order will be pivotal if the Australians are any chance of retaining the urn away from home.
At his best Warner is a match winner, plain and simple.
Aggressive in his approaching to batting and the game in general, Warner is a top-class player that can swing the game in your favour in a matter of overs and put pressure on the opposition from the outset.
If he is able to reintegrate himself back into the system with no hiccups and accept his role within the side, he will without a doubt have a big say in the success of the side in this incredibly important Ashes series.
2. Marcus Harris
Entering the Australian summer as a relatively unknown shield prospect, Harris has shown himself to be a player for the future after some admirable performances at the top of the order.
Relatively positive in the way he goes about his cricket, Harris’ technique has stood up at Test level from his very first innings as you got the immediate sense that he belonged in a baggy green.
Despite his reasonable success this summer, Harris did struggle to turn starts into genuine scores on numerous occasions, with no hundreds to absolutely lock his place in the side long term.
This inability to convert starts into big scores has been the source of much frustration for Australian fans throughout the summer, however, Harris has shown in his short Test career a technique and game plan suitable for long term success.
The Ashes will be a critical learning curve for the 26-year-old, who has earned his place for the first Test and will continue to get better with experience.
3. Usman Khawaja
If you had asked me the after play on day one in Canberra last week this selection could well have been different as the out-of-form Usman Khawaja had again failed with a horrendously mistimed drive ending his innings three balls after it began.
In a summer to forget, Khawaja would average just 28.8 in the India series, only passing 50 on one occasion throughout the four Test matches.
However, a ton full of character, class and charisma by the elegant number three in the second innings secured his spot for this Test match as he again enters a Test series with plenty to prove.
Clearly talented enough to hold down a spot in this Australian side, Khawaja sneaks into his usual position at number three as he looks to really cement himself as a top-quality Test cricketer.
4. Steve Smith
Thank the lord, he is back.
After 12 months of agonizing waiting, the Australian team will finally get its superstar back for one of the most important series of his career.
It is needless to say that Smith is the most important player in this team, with his ability to consistently chalk out runs something that makes opposition sides instantly sweat.
A smooth transition back into the team will be perhaps the most important aspect to his upcoming Ashes campaign, as the former skipper looks to reclaim his throne atop of the world batting rankings.
Despite the overall class of the man, Smith has tended to slightly struggle with the moving ball in the past, making this series all the more important as he announces himself back onto the international cricketing stage.
5. Travis Head
Perhaps the biggest positive to come out of the period since the ball-tampering saga, young South Australian Travis Head has emerged as a class middle order batsman.
Beginning with a gutsy 72 in the second innings of his first Test against Pakistan to see his side to a thrilling draw, Head has played a number of outstanding knocks under pressure in his short test career.
A brilliant player of spin that uses his feet well and possesses a solid technique, it seems as if Head will adapt well to the swinging English conditions and play a key role at number five for his country.
Already promoted to the position of vice-captain, the sky is the limit for Head, who after finally breaking through with a maiden century against Sri Lanka will be looking to make his mark on cricket’s greatest rivalry.
6. Kurtis Patterson
By far the hardest position in the side to choose, I’ve gone with late summer bloomer Kurtis Patterson to fill the void at number six for the Australians in England this winter.
A widely unknown prospect, Patterson jumped into the spotlight with two centuries against Sri Lanka in an Australia A tour match to be a late inclusion into the Test side.
Since his inclusion, Patterson has shown the temperament and class of a Test cricketer, adapting to the highest level in extremely impressive fashion.
The hundred he scored in just his second innings, in particular, showed the talent of the man, as he took an inexperienced Sri Lankan bowling attack to the cleaners in an incredible display of Test match batting.
Now, it is obvious that the task becomes a lot more challenging for this series facing Jimmy Anderson and co in their own backyard, however, having battled his way through first-class cricket for a number of years all signs point to a determined young man ready to take his game to another level.
7. Tim Paine © (wk)
Thrust into the toughest position in Australian sport in dramatic fashion ten months ago, Tim Paine has not put a foot wrong leading this inexperienced group of cricketers.
Along with his work as captain, Paine has also been fantastic behind the stumps throughout the summer, pulling off some extraordinary catches and keeping things tidy and under control.
The one major worry surrounding Paine’s game, however, is his batting, which has been very sub-standard for such a crucial cog in the Australian order.
Over the six Test matches played by Australia this summer, Paine would fail to pass 50 with a score of 41 in the first Test against India the skipper’s best result with bat in hand.
However, his importance to the team with the gloves and in a leadership capacity will without a doubt see him take part in this crucial Ashes series, as he looks to lead Australia to its first series win in England since 2001.
8. Pat Cummins
After a successful return to the Test side last summer, Pat Cummins took his game to another level in this past season with outstanding performances seeing him become the world’s top-ranked bowler and the poster boy of Australian cricket.
Renowned for his raw pace and bounce, Cummins is the bowler every captain dreams of having at his disposal as he always runs in hard and makes the batsman sweat whether they are new to the crease or 150*.
Now the newly crowned best bowler in the world will take his talents to the birthplace of the game for his first Ashes series on British soil.
Spearheading the three ponged Australian pace attack of himself, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc, Cummins will be arguably Australia’s most important player in this series as they look to take advantage of a weaker English batting line-up.
Along with his prodigious ability with the ball, Cummins is also more than capable with the bat with the attacking number eight currently sporting an admirable average of 20 and two half-centuries.
9. Mitchell Starc
If you had to pick the Australian bowler under the most pressure coming into this series it is without a doubt Mitchell Starc, who after a string of subpar performances this summer lost his position as the spearhead of the Australian attack.
At his best, it is very clear that Starc is one of the best bowlers on the planet.
Blessed with incredible speed and an ability to generate large amounts of swings to go along with a toe-crushing yorker, Starc is a major weapon which used correctly will garner a lot of success in any conditions.
However, this past summer Starc has struggled for rhythm, consistency and even pace on several occasions as he only managed to take 13 wickets against India while also being picked off easily by the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara, Majinka Agarwal and Virat Kohli.
With the English conditions famous for rewarding consistent bowling, this is something Starc must improve on in the coming months, as a bowler that leaks runs will only cause disaster for this Aussie side.
As Jhye Richardson waits in the wings, I still keep faith in Starc to begin this series, but a couple of bad performances could easily see the big quick on the sidelines by the third Test.
10. Josh Hazlewood
The most consistent of the Aussie quicks, Josh Hazlewood will be a man on a mission come August as he looks to remedy a poor series on British soil in 2015 and prove he can adapt to the swinging conditions.
A tall fast bowler that consistently puts the ball in good areas and troubles the opposition batsman, last time it seemed Hazlewood looked to do much with the swinging ball as he often overpitched to the English batsmen.
Now with four more years of experience under his belt, Hazlewood will look to show that these troubles are behind him and just bowl a consistent line and length, which brought legendary Australian quick Glenn McGrath great amounts of success in the English conditions.
With two strike weapons in Starc and Cummins by his side, Hazlewood has a big role to play in building up pressure on the opposition batsman and toiling away on that good line and length to make life difficult for the English.
At his best, Hazlewood complements this Australian attack perfectly, and as vice-captain of the side will be a massive presence for this team as they look to retain the urn.
11. Nathan Lyon
Among the premier spin bowlers in world cricket, Nathan Lyon will gear up for his third Ashes tour of the British Isles as a crucial clog to the Australian team.
Renowned for his ability to hold up an end and attack through his constant pressurizing line and length, Nathan Lyon will be an invaluable member to this bowling as his consistency will allow Tim Paine to effectively rotate his quicks at the other hand.
Having never truly dominated an Ashes series away from Australian soil, this will be a defining period in the career of Lyon as he looks to cement his legacy one of the best bowlers in Australian history.
Among the more experienced players in the squad, Lyon will also serve as a crucial locker room presence throughout this series as he looks to guide this side through perhaps its biggest challenge.