Australia secured a timely pre-Ashes boost just five days out from the series by winning the World Test Championship on Sunday.
Their 209-run victory over India under the blazing heat at the Oval across the last five days showed, mostly, their strengths before the Baggy Greens take on England on Friday in the opening Test of the Ashes series.
Here’s what we learned from the Australians as they head to Birmingham as champions and Ashes holders.
Australia’s Starc warning
Does Scott Boland start ahead of Mitchell Starc in the Ashes? He should if he doesn’t. Boland was seismic against the Indians and gave onlookers a lesson in consistent pace attack throughout the five days.
He took two wickets for 59 runs in the first innings at an economy of 2.95 and three wickets for 46 in the second innings at an economy of 2.88.
Starc, in contrast, took two wickets for 71 runs in the first innings at an economy rate of 5.20 and two for 77 at an economy of 5.50 in the second innings.
Boland has rocked up and sent a statement to head coach Andrew McDonald. On this evidence, he simply must be given the new ball against the English batters – there’s no contest.
Deep into the order
Yes, opener David Warner was sent packing from the crease with a second innings total (one) reminiscent of many scores achieved on English pitches, but Australia proved they have runs right down the order – something England captain Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum will need to consider when attacking the Baggy Greens.
Steve Smith knocked a century in the first innings while Travis Head hit over 150 in his opening knock. Alex Carey backed up a 48 with a 66 not out in his second innings while Marnus Labuschagne and Starc also crossed the 40-run threshold in the second innings.
We know that Bazball-era England will go out with an attacking mentality but Australia will do the same with the bat.
The tourists will challenge England with the bat, and that’s something England haven’t necessarily been confronted with yet under Stokes and McCullum.
English pitches will tell
Do England still want hard, fast pitches like the one seen at the Oval? That’s what captain Stokes has previously said when asked for his summer preference. But Australia’s performance in south London may cast doubts.
Many have said Australia’s key to holding on to the famous urn is setting par scores and relying on their bowlers to run through England. But over the last five days they’ve shown their ability to bat hard and long, and declare at the right time – something England have prided themselves on in innings gone by.
The reality is that Australia surpassed a par score in their first innings and got on the front foot. England have said they prefer chasing totals. The two clashes in styles are destined to meet this summer. The Ashes transcend cricket, and an in-form Australia will only add to the occasion this summer.