Forget about the Cricket World Cup – that is old news. England may have prevailed (thanks to the boundary count) on home soil to be crowned champions, but there is little time to bask in the glory.
Just over two weeks after that unforgettable final against New Zealand, the focus switches to Test action and the small matter of the Ashes.
Australia are holders of the urn following their 4-0 success on home soil in 2017-18. However, they have not triumphed on English soil since 2001, when a star-studded side led by Steve Waugh and including Adam Gilchrist, Glenn McGrath, Ricky Ponting and Shane Warne proved to be far too strong for Nasser Hussain's team.
Since then, though, England have dominated in their own backyard. Can they continue their dominance, or will an away team succeed for the first time since 2010-11?
Ahead of the 2019 edition of the series, three Omnisport journalists have offered predictions for what might unfold in the coming weeks.
Winner and score: England (3-2)
You would be a brave man to bet against Joe Root's team in their own conditions given England have not lost a Test series at home since 2014 – when Sri Lanka edged a two-match contest. The Australian aura was gone after 2005 and this is an England team largely made up of players still residing on cloud nine after the thrilling World Cup triumph. England are not infallible – see that fragile top order for evidence – but, conversely, there should be little to fear from an Australia side that has been bowled out for less than 300 on 15 occasions in their previous 12 Tests.
We have named our squad for the first @Specsavers #Ashes Test!
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) July 27, 2019
Leading run-scorer: Steve Smith
In eight of those 12 Tests, Australia were without Cameron Bancroft, David Warner and Smith due to their suspensions following the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa. It is Smith – a man who was still top of the ICC's Test batting rankings during part of his ban – who England will fear the most. He scored the most runs (508) four years ago in England, was also the leading run-scorer (687) in the most recent Ashes in Australia and registered four half-centuries in the World Cup to suggest he has not lost his touch.
Leading wicket-taker: James Anderson
This may be his last Ashes hurrah but Anderson, who should overcome a calf problem to feature at Edgbaston, can bow out with a bang. Ignore the 36-year-old's recent figures on flatter tracks in Sri Lanka and the Caribbean – when he took 11 wickets across five Tests – and instead focus on the most recent home series against India, Pakistan and West Indies, in conditions tailor-made for the seamer. Anderson was England's leading wicket-taker in each of the three series and in this Ashes, he will be handed his weapon of choice – the Dukes ball with a bigger seam that saw him do such damage in 2017 and 2018.
Winner and score: Draw (2-2 - Australia retain the Ashes)
Lunch. Tea. Rain stopping play. Top-order collapses. They are about the only certainties heading into this Ashes series, along with Bancroft, Smith and Warner being greeted by boos each time they come out to bat. Both teams have a conveyor belt of pace bowlers but serious holes in their batting line-ups. Whoever can work out the best options to plug those gaps may well end up being victorious. With that in mind, it may finally be time for the home dominance to come to an end. Australia have selected a well-balanced squad and the return of the ball-tampering trio to the Test XI gives it a much stronger look. Crucially, too, England's World Cup success may have emptied the tanks of some key players, including skipper Root. With rain to play a part somewhere, the prediction is two wins apiece (both for Australia at the London venues) and a weather-hit draw somewhere outside the capital.
One week ago
The greatest finish in cricket history
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) July 21, 2019
Leading run-scorer: Steve Smith
It is hard to see how anyone regularly coming up against the new ball will prosper on a regular basis. England have shown a propensity to fold faster than an origami expert (see Ireland, one-off Test, Lord's) and still appear no closer to working out their best combination for the top three. Root is seemingly not keen on a promotion from four in the order, but he will be a target for the Australia attack however early he is out in the middle. Smith will be in the firing line too, considering what happened in Cape Town last year. However, the right-hander averaged a ridiculous 137.4 in the last Ashes and will be determined to succeed after serving a suspension.
Leading wicket-taker: Stuart Broad
Poor Broad. He is second on England's list for Test wickets and just warmed up for the Ashes with seven in the match against Ireland at Lord's, yet some appear ready to cast him out on the international scrap heap. Anderson remains the leader of the attack but he is coming back from a calf injury, and the hot-and-cold Broad has a habit of catching fire against the Australians. He may struggle to match his career-best haul of 8-15 achieved at Trent Bridge in the 2015 series, but the 33-year-old still has a few of those devastating spells in him. It is far tougher to pick a candidate for this award for the tourists outside of Nathan Lyon, considering he may be the only bowler who features in every game while they manage the workload of the pacemen.
Winner and score: Australia (3-2)
The weather in England will obviously have an impact, but given both teams' batting woes, results still seem likely. Australia last won an Ashes series in England in 2001, but this is a fine opportunity to end that drought. The hosts' World Cup win took plenty out of them, and signs of fatigue are sure to be present during the series, giving Australia's bowlers in particular something to take advantage of. With Warner and Smith having a point to prove in the Test arena after their bans and plenty of depth in the bowling attack, Australia have what they need to get the job done. There will surely be little between the teams so if the tourists' stars can step up in the right moments, the urn is likely to be theirs at the Oval.
Aussie #Ashes squad:
Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner. pic.twitter.com/gz6XspryKG
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) July 26, 2019
Leading run-scorer: David Warner
What better way to drown out the boos than making plenty of runs? Warner is exactly the type to thrive off that kind of attention and he showed during the World Cup his form was quite good, making 647 runs at an average of 71.88, with three centuries. He also made a 58 in the intra-squad tour match, an encounter for the most part best forgotten by Australia's batsmen. If Australia are to have any chance of an upset win on English soil, Warner will need to deliver. The left-hander managed 418 runs at 46.44 during the 2015 Ashes, and that was without going on to convert one of his five half-centuries. And, in the wake of the ball-tampering scandal, what better way to endear yourself once again to an at-best uncertain Australian public?
Leading wicket-taker: Pat Cummins
The 2019 Allan Border Medallist and the number one Test bowler in the world. Is Cummins getting the credit he deserves yet? Finally fit, Cummins has been a standout in recent times for Australia, and he gets a chance to terrorise England once more. It may have been on home soil, but the paceman took a series-high 23 wickets in 2017-18. Cummins – also handy with the bat, which may become incredibly important – was only a late inclusion into the squad in 2015, but he returns four years later as a vital part of Australia's bowling attack and with a chance to show just why he is the world's top-ranked Test bowler.Published 29 Jul 2019, 12:32 IST