So, how to top the World Cup then? Well, an Ashes that could become a collection of three-day shootouts, with two superlative attacks holding sway over two brittle batting line-ups, would not lack entertainment value. Hold on to your hats, this could be eventful.
Frankly, anything could happen when the old enemies lock horns on Thursday at Edgbaston in one of the more difficult Ashes series to predict, with neither England nor Australia able to guarantee that fifth or even fourth day ticket holders will get their money’s worth.
Certainly there was little in England’s ultimately victorious Test against Ireland to suggest they will be able to put their white-ball dominance to one side and find the application necessary to continue their home dominance over Australia.
Hold on to your hats, a very eventful Ashes series is in store as the old enemies lock horns
‘It will play a massive hand,’ admitted England captain Joe Root about the likely bowler dominance. ‘It’s not your traditional Test series in that respect. It’s not like sides have been banging out scores of 500 around the world. We understand that, especially in England, it can be very difficult at the top of the order. Then it’s how you react to that.
‘Are we skilful and smart enough to make big scores? You have to play to your strengths too. We have exploited bowler-friendly conditions and have found ways of winning matches. We have a good record here and it is set up nicely to be a juicy contest.’
Yet if Root needs reassurance at the start of what, in the aftermath of a demanding World Cup, will be a gruelling five-Test series in six weeks, then it comes from an Australia side who should not exactly make England quake in their boots. This far-from-vintage Australia team are not short of comedy value this year.
First they whipped off their socks for a bit of earthing on the Edgbaston outfield before they were thrashed by England in the World Cup semi-final.
Then Australia captain Tim Paine on Thursday wound up the patriotic Edgbaston crowd by scoffing at their fervent support before attempting to summon up the spirit of one of the great British leaders Sir Winston Churchill.
England captain Joe Root and his Australian counterpart Tim Paine pose with the urn
Trouble is, the quote ‘behaviour doesn’t lie’ that was recommended as a motto for the new squeaky clean Australia by, of all people, their combustible former wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, has been more commonly used by eccentric TV presenter David Icke. Thank goodness Root did not start quoting Crocodile Dundee or Dame Edna Everage in retaliation.
Almost as funny is any attempt at Australian indignation about the reception the cheating trio of Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft will receive on Thursday in their first Test since the Sandpaper-gate crisis that engulfed the whole country, let alone cricket.
‘They’re human beings, they’ve got feelings, they’re no different to anybody else,’ said Paine. Which is fine, but could you imagine what would happen if three convicted English ball-tamperers were walking out at the Gabba? Goodness, the Brisbane crowd were hostile enough to Stuart Broad when all he did was fail to walk, in true Australian fashion.
The fact is, Australia conducted a whitewash into the whole sorry affair, which seemed to overlook the personal abuse suffered by Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow in recent Ashes series.
And they still would have us believe no one other than the disgraced trio knew anything about the ball-tampering.
Paine wound up the patriotic Edgbaston crowd by scoffing at their fervent support
Pull the other one. The ‘Sandpaper Three’ deserve all they will verbally get on Thursday. Boo away, people.
More seriously, Paine was prickly when questioned about his place because clearly he does not merit one and that has an impact on the balance of his team and has ultimately led them to leave out their best bowler Mitchell Starc.
Alex Carey, a better keeper-batsman, was omitted from the Australian squad because of the presence of the man who admittedly had to take over the captaincy in the most difficult of circumstances after Cape Town. And Thursday’s Aussie side will include another keeper — Matthew Wade — as a specialist batsman.
It is up to England to take advantage of the Test captain least deserving of his place on pure ability since Mike Brearley and make sure this most momentous of cricketing summers has a second half that can live up to the success and drama of the first and that World Cup.
England have taken the sensible option in leaving out Jofra Archer after what Root described as a ‘very serious’ side injury.
He will work on his red-ball form and fitness in the nets with a view to him making his Test debut in the second match at Lord’s.
Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad and Co will look to get at Australia’s brittle batting attack
That leaves Broad, rightly preferred to Sam Curran, and Chris Woakes looking over their shoulders when they join a fit-again Jimmy Anderson in a seam attack lacking the extra pace Archer and Mark Wood brought to the World Cup.
That additional speed might be provided by Ben Stokes, who is close to his all-round best for the first time since his brawl in Bristol and is back in the vice-captain’s role that Root revealed he never wanted him to be stripped of.
Yet it is still the England batting that looks vulnerable. Root, at last, moves up to three but Jason Roy stays as opener when he might have been better suited to the No 4 role that goes to Joe Denly. The pressure is still very much on that flaky top order.
‘It was completely my decision,’ insisted Root of his move back to where coach Trevor Bayliss has long wanted him to bat. At least Root is worth his place wherever he bats unlike Australia captain Paine, who showed his sensitivity on Thursday by reportedly banning English tabloids from his dressing room. As he is unlikely to be reading this we can say his side should not become the first Australia team to win the Ashes here since 2001.
But it might be another rollercoaster of a short and sharp ride before England regain the urn.