In the words of the late, lamented Big Kev ‘I’m excited’! The cold war is over and battle can commence. I’ve cleared the decks for Thursday and whilst I won’t be at the Gabba for the first ball of the Ashes series, I will be happily esconsced in front of the widescreen with a steaming mug of strong tea and an iced vovo to signify my dual allegiance! England have prepared well, remarkably well. As a team they seem strangely as one, they are tight and happy and have barely put a foot wrong. Their touring performances have been strong – batsmen have scored runs aplenty and to a man, bowlers have taken wickets. Australia on the other hand have hardly set the world alight. They returned from India chastened and individual performances since have been sporadic at best. Selectorial arguments are simmering and normally vocal supporters are pessimistic. The glass is now half empty. The playing field is as level as a billiard table and this could be the best series on Australian soil for many a summer. For all this something is missing. It’s the looming presence of uber superstars. The game changers, the turning pointers. Quite simply there aren’t any. On either side. There can be little argument that both teams are choc a bloc full of supremely talented athletes who, on their day can inflict cruel damage on a hapless opposition. But where are the conniving, conjuring Warnes of the world? Where’s a Gilly to crush the flickering hopes of a nation with some deft clubbing. And what about the dominating, harbinger of doom shadow of Glenn McGrath? England are similarly bereft. Ok they have KP but he has never developed to become the skin headed, bovver boy required to crush the Australians underfoot. No Freddy Flintoff to galvanise and inspire and only Beefy’s dulcet tones in the commentary box. The series will flip flop on the big moments – those defining times when the innings, the match and the series can turn. Australia haven’t made the most of these over the last few seasons and they must if they are to triumph. It’s a tough ask to win in Australia but I think the Poms have sufficient mettle to redress many years of history. 3-1 England.