You young whippersnappers don't know how good you've had it.
Any English cricket fans who grew up in the late eighties and the whole of the nineties knew what The Ashes meant. Five Tests of cricket in which the England team would routinely get thrashed, humiliated and intimidated with the series usually in the bag by the fourth Test, absolute latest. The Aussies would then ease off for the fifth Test, England might sneak a decent result and then the press would proclaim that the boys were on the right track.
Then the next series would appear and we'd lose again.
It's hard to overstate just what the 2005 Ashes series meant to English cricket fans. As well as being, objectively, one of the greatest series ever played, it also ended with something that most of us never thought we'd actually ever live to see. As day follows night, England lose to Australia. That was the natural order of things, and suddenly we didn't know what to believe in any more. It was like watching an octopus ride a motorbike. Absolutely brilliant, but beyond the realms of what was previously thought possible.
Since then, it's been a mixed bag - a 5-0 humbling immediately after that series, but then a recovery to win at home in 2009 and away in 2011, before a 3-0 cruise at home in 2013, but then another 5-0 drubbing last time out in Oz. Which way will this series go? No one really knows, although the Aussies were definitely favourites - until now.
From our years of experience, we've identified the five crucial elements that may have been missed by the England coaching staff in their preparations. These are the real truths that Captain Cook will need to take out with him onto that field to claim the Ashes back for Blighty. Hopefully, he's reading and paying attention. Let us begin.
1. Pray for Injuries to Key Australian Players
Look, we never said this was going to be sporting. If Glenn McGrath hadn't stepped on a ball in the warm-up for the second 2005 Test and torn his ankle ligaments, then we'd definitely have lost. As it was we only just won, by two runs - and even then the decision for the final wicket was wrong (as batsman Kasprowicz's glove was not in contact with the bat when the ball deflected off to Geraint Jones). That would have put the Aussies 2-0 up, we'd have given up, lost the series as per usual, Michael Vaughan would have resigned and Flintoff would have taken over early. And then can you imagine just how bad the 2006 away series would have been. We'd probably somehow have managed to lose 8-0 in a five match series.
Thankfully, crucial Aussie paceman Ryan Harris has already fulfilled this section of our requirement by injuring his knee in a warm-up game against Kent before then announcing his retirement. It's a shame, but there are always casualties of war; don't blame us. Part one of the plan is thus in place.
PROGRESS REPORT: COMPLETED
2. Pray for Rain
One of the most consistent performers for England through the nineties should have been listed on the scorecard as our 12th man: Mr I.N. Clement-Weather. When the top order had fallen cheaply, the middle order had collapsed, and we took a look at numbers 9, 10 and 11 and saw Tufnell, Malcolm and McCague (hard to believe but that actually happened once), it would fall on the broad shoulders of the English summer to help us get a result. And he was not found wanting in the 2009 series, taking care of a day and a half's play which helped England scrape a draw in the first Test which they barely (read: absolutely did not) deserved.
You can argue that the rain can sometimes help the opposition. Well, it would if they were losing and needed a hand. But, usually, they're not. So we'd bet we're gonna need the masterful skills of our valued extra man at some point this summer. Is that a storm cloud I can see in the distance?
PROGRESS REPORT: LOOKING IN DOUBT DUE TO IMPENDING HEATWAVE BUT CONFIDENT HE'LL TURN UP AT SOME POINT
3. Win the key individual battles in Walkabouts, with Pedalos, with the Aussies' best bowler and with their own ex-players
Despite England claiming that they've learnt from the happy-go-lucky attitude of recent visitors New Zealand, where a wonderful Test and One-Day series was played in the perfect spirit of the game, there is a not a chance that they're not going to reboard the banter bus and drive it full speed into the Aussies.
The tone for the last series in England was set when baby-faced Joe Root managed to wind up Aussie batmen David Warner in a Walkabout in the run-up to the first Test, receiving a punch for his troubles, but ensuring that Warner was then suspended, missing the first test due to lack of match practice. This proved to be a masterstroke, with Warner going on to show his quality in later series.
Likewise, the 2006-07 debacle in Australia was summed up when captain Andrew 'Freddie' Flintoff, after a poor showing in a World Cup match which followed that 5-0 hammering, decided to take a pedalo for a spin after a night out drinking. Despite not being able to swim. Unsurprisingly, the 'Fredalo' episode cast a long shadow over the calamitous reign of Flintoff.
The 2009 series saw the Aussies' Mitchell Johnson head to these shores touted as the best fast bowler of a generation, before promptly falling apart in truly hilarious fashion in the second Test, conceding 200 runs, prompting chants from the crowd of the truly poetic: "He bowls to the left, he bowls to the right, that Mitchell Johnson, his bowling is shite". Sadly, the last series in Australia saw him tear England apart. But the English crowd weren't there then. Guys, we need you again this time - show no mercy.
Finally, the recent spell of positive play in the test and one-day series was appreciated by the cricketing public for one thing more than any other: it finally shut people up (read: Piers Morgan) from talking about Kevin Pietersen. We need to try and win purely to stop this happening, so if that means Rooty taking another one for the team, and the whole squad being banned from being within 10 miles of water, then so be it.
PROGRESS REPORT: HEAD FOR CARDIFF WALKABOUT IF WE START BADLY IN THE FIRST MATCH AND DO NOT HEAD FOR THE BAY. REPEAT DO NOT HEAD FOR THE BAY
4. Bowl the first ball of the series within 50 feet of the stumps
Just don't do this again OK? They all laughed at us. And then won 5-0.
PROGRESS REPORT: MAYBE JUST BOWL IT UNDERARM, JUST TO BE SURE
5. Use every cheeky tactic in the book
For years we saw the Aussies never give an inch, compete for every run and push the rules of the game to their limit. And not once did we think, "it seems to be working pretty well for them, why don't we try that?"
Until, that is, 2005, when we went toe-to-toe with them in the rule-bending stakes. After years of selecting a 12th man from whoever fancied a go in the crowd, we got in a series of young, specialist fielders to deputise for our injured players (or just those who fancied a rest); a tactic which came to a head when England's Gary Pratt ran out Aussie captain Ricky Ponting in the fourth Test, which resulted in some 'fiery invective' (trans: a lot of swearing) being directed at England. Within the spirit of the game? Probably not. Effective and within the laws? Most certainly.
2009's first Test saw a repeat, as last wicket pair Monty Panesar and James Anderson attempted to bat out time to save the match. They were ably assisted in this quest by 12th man Bilal Shafayat and physiotherapist Steve McCaig coming onto the pitch - twice - for no apparent reason other than a quick natter. Within the spirit of the game? Probably not. Effective and within the laws? Most certainly.
It's a shame they've changed the rules about runners, otherwise we could have lined up Mo Farah to sub in whenever possible.
PROGRESS REPORT: IF SOMEONE CAN HACK THE DRS SYSTEM IN OUR FAVOUR, THAT WOULD BE ENORMOUSLY HELPFUL