It does not look as though it is going to be a high-scoring Ashes series, or one-sided like the last — Australia won 4-0 — or one that features a lot of spin, or quick over rates. It promises to be a one-dimensional dogfight until mid-September, by which time England may or may not have won their fifth home Ashes series in a row.
This type of cricket will be dictated by the brand of Dukes ball, manufactured in 2018, with a prouder seam than this year's model being used in the County Championship. It may seem esoteric that events should be determined by this small sphere; but such varying conditions as the type of ball, and pitch, and overhead conditions have made each series different, back to the creation of the Ashes in 1882.
Last season, against India, the ball worked a treat for England's swingers and seamers. Led by James Anderson, who took 24 wickets at only 18 runs each, England beat India 4-1.
Same recipe, same result? Cricket never works that way, to order; but England's strength is their pace bowling, illustrated by the options in their 14-man squad for the first test, and it makes sense for England to place faith again in Anderson and his cohorts, although Australia's strength is also their pace bowling, with seven options in their 17-man squad.
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Modern drainage dictates that more grass has to be left on the pitch at the start so it does not crumble in the heat, which makes the pace bowler's life easier still. Twenty for two, and 100 for five, are going to be familiar scores — especially when England bat. And this is when matches will be won or lost.
England's top-order frailty — the absence of a partner for Alastair Cook as he then was, let alone a successor — has had one silver lining: the growth of the England late-order scrapper. In the last home Ashes of 2015, Moeen Ali led the counter-attacks from No8. Moeen finished as England's third highest run-scorer, after Cook and Joe Root, with 293 off 410 balls.
It is a long time since Moeen swashbuckled but Sam Curran has grown into a similar left-handed swordsman. Curran's 55 runs off 45 balls against Ireland were match-turning. In half his 10 tests, he has turned the tide.
So even if England's top order cannot set up the game, their lower order can snatch it away from Australia: Moeen and Curran, Chris Woakes and Broad, even Jofra Archer when he makes his test debut.