In two weeks, the England cricket team will contest the Ashes against Australia, just three months after they retained the trophy on home soil.
Despite this victory, an away series presents a very different test for the team. It seems that there will be five main factors that England will have to get to grips with in order to retain the precious urn.
Firstly, England must seek to learn lessons from the summer series; a 3-0 victory seems comprehensive, but masks the tale of a side that struggled to take advantage at crucial moments.
Aside from a dominant performance in the second test, marked with Joe Root’s 180 and Graeme Swann’s match figures of 9/122, the rest of the series was very much a tight exchange, with neither side really dominating the other. England’s selection experiment in the fifth test backfired terribly, and Alastair Cook was criticised on several occasions for being too negative.
Avoiding injuries to key men is going to prove crucial in deciding which way the series will swing. Who can forget Glenn McGrath’s inadvertent stumble on a cricket ball on the eve of the fourth test in 2005? It was an event that surely served to loosen Australia’s grip on the trophy.
England have already received a huge boost, with the Australian line up decimated by injury; four of their pace bowlers will miss the first test.
Cricket, perhaps more than any other sport, relies on form. Ian Bell was imperious in the recent Ashes series and England will be looking for similar from Cook to set them up for victory.
Of course, an in form James Anderson looking to rip through the hosts’ batting line up will be of great importance, and the usually reliable Graeme Swann will be there to take advantage of any spin that might be available.
Naturally, playing cricket in the middle of the Australian summer is ever so slightly different from an overcast day in Cardiff. The pitches are likely to favour pace bowling, with several wickets offering occasional bounce that is sure to unnerve the most confident of batsmen.
Since England were last in Australia, the home side have won eight tests, losing only two, suggesting Darren Lehmann’s men come alive on home soil. Finally, dealing with the boredom of a three month tour on the other side of the world is a challenge that the team must face up to.
England’s preparations have been disrupted on more than one occasion by events off the field; one can’t help but think of the infamous incident involving Andrew Flintoff and a pedalo.
England luminaries have been queuing up to suggest that the side can dominate this series, with Ian Botham cheekily suggesting a 5-0 whitewash could be on the cards. However, given that this is an away series against a team that still rank as one of the world’s best, such predictions may well prove to be premature.