With the exception of David Warner having enough of Joe Root’s face at the Birmingham Walkabout, the past few months have been a respectful feeling out period.
The pacing around the outside of the ring has come in the form of mutual respect – no side willing to show weakness, even when they are blatantly obvious.
England’s Alastair Cook, captain of the red hot favourites, says it’ll be tough. “One heck of a battle,” in his trash-talk immune pomp.
His quick-bowling all-rounder Stuard Broad has labelled Australia’s captain Michael Clarke the “best batsman in the world”.
Clarke has talked up the class of his opponents.
Yesterday, Graeme Swann, the England spinner pundits say will be the difference as he rips through the shaky Aussie middle order’s defences, spoke up in defence of his maligned opposite number, Nathan Lyon.
And there’s been stacks more ‘mutual respect’ flying about.
Those Englishmen who have tormented the Aussies in the past, such as Ian Botham, are tipping a 5-0 whitewash.
Those who have been battered by the great teams in the Baggy Green, such as Nasser Hussain, have told his countrymen to be wary.
The Aussie experts say it’ll be close, acknowledging and embracing Australia’s place as underdogs.
With all the off-field drama, an Indian flogging fresh in the mind and facing down a third Ashes loss in a row, beware the wounded beast is the cliche doing the rounds.
But all of this turns into total gibberish today when the first ball is bowled in controlled anger at about 11.05am.
After all of the build up and expert opinions and advice, all that matters from that moment is bowlers hitting the spot, batsmen keeping their heads and punishing the loose ball, and fielders taking their chances.
A massive factor in this first Test at Trent Bridge will be who gets to throw the first punch, deciding by the humble coin flip in the middle.
“A lot of it will come down to tosses and conditions,” former Aussie skipper Ricky Ponting say.
Only events in the middle will decide who ends up on the canvas.
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