If England are to upset the odds and win back the Ashes this year, they will have to achieve the biggest reversal in form mustered by either side in almost two decades.
Read more: Ashes Betting preview
Since the nightmare whitewash in Australia 18 months ago, a 3-1 defeat of India last summer is England’s only series victory, while the Aussies have swept to three wins from four in the same period, losing just three matches in 11.
With such a disparity in form, Michael Clarke’s tourists have perhaps understandably been made the bookmakers’ favourites for this series.
England head into today’s opening match in Cardiff with just a 25 per cent win ratio from their four inter-Ashes Test series.
The last time an England team managed to overcome such disappointing form came in the 1986-87 series, when Mike Gatting’s side travelled Down Under with no wins in three but still retained the urn with a 2-1 series victory.
In fact, on only five occasions in the competition’s rich 133-year history have England ever gone into a series against Australia with a worse inter-Ashes Test series record than Cook’s current crop.
And yet there is some comfort to be taken from England’s other out-of-form sides: four of those five still summoned an Ashes triumph despite their poor form.
Australia’s imperious win percentage in recent series is also no guarantee of success. The Baggy Green have failed to win a series in England for more than 14 years despite arriving with similarly strong records.
In the summer of 2005 Australia boasted nine wins from their 10 previous series – their best record heading into an Ashes for 30 years. And yet it was England who won an epic series, reclaiming the urn for the first time in 18 years.
So the odds may be against England, but history offers enough reason for hope when the first ball is bowled this morning.
After all, the death knell for English cricket has been cast before; its body was cremated and taken to Australia on 29 August 1882. Yet in the very first Ashes England travelled to Australia to win it back, and they did so despite having lost four of their previous five Test series.