One-day series provides few Ashes hints
When Graeme Swann chipped a catch into the covers last Saturday evening off the bowling of Shaun Tait, cricketing hostilities between England and Australia were brought to a temporary end.
But fans with an unsatiable appetite for seeing these famous old rivals in action do not have long to wait until it all starts again, and this time the Ashes will be on the line.
England won the recently concluded one-day series 3-2, but given how heavily they were beaten in the last two games - and how close they came to throwing the third match away at Old Trafford - there was not too much to gloat about for Andrew Strauss and Co.
Perhaps a whitewash for either team would have adjusted the balance a bit, but Australia were warm favourites for the Ashes before the ODIs began, and they are still warm favourites now.
There is so much that will be different on 25 November in Brisbane, when the first of five Tests starts: a raucous, partisan crowd, a red Kookaburra ball, and changes in personnel for both teams.
Neither starting XI can be determined beyond vague conjecture, particularly in the case of Australia whose fast bowling cortege has been badly affected by injuries for a while.
The latest paceman to limp out of immediate consideration is Ryan Harris, who picked up a knee injury on Saturday. Two more, Ben Hilfenhaus (knee) and Mitchell Johnson (elbow), are beginning comebacks from injuries of their own to play in the upcoming Test series against Pakistan.
Tait took 8-99 in 25.3 overs during the one-day series in England
Another bowler familiar to Ashes watchers of 2009, Peter Siddle, hopes to be playing again in September following a seven-month absence with stress fractures to his back.
It's little wonder that England's quietly influential coach, Andy Flower, is so keen to single out certain bowlers for periods of rest or strengthening work.
Meanwhile, Tait, who was not even in Australia's original squad for the five matches against England - as he is mostly used as a destructive weapon in Twenty20 cricket - ended the series as its outstanding bowler.
The 27-year-old from Adelaide looks the very picture of fitness and agility when sending down seriously awkward, swinging deliveries in excess of 100mph.
Everyone, bar perhaps England's batsmen, would love to see him play in the Ashes but the lingering spoiler is that the catalogue of career-threatening injuries he has endured - particularly to his shoulder and back - mean anything beyond ODIs is not on the current agenda.
Whatever the overtures from Ricky Ponting to attempt to secure the services of the fastest bowler in world cricket, unless Tait himself has the mental desire and physical capability to play in the Ashes he will not do so.
And his probable absence, with so many great Ashes gladiators of the recent past now retired, will diminish some of the sparkle.
For their part, England have every chance of arriving in Brisbane in a better mental state than they did four years ago, when the sudden withdrawal of Marcus Trescothick and the flawed captaincy of Andrew Flintoff left them suffering stage fright from the word go.
The giant Middlesex pace bowler Steven Finn was cleverly "hidden" by taking no part in the ODIs, though he was closely watched by the Aussies in the nets. He has a big chance of featuring in the attack in Australia after Tim Bresnan struggled to be a wicket-taking threat in any of the five matches.
What of the batting? Australia's Michael Clarke is having difficulties scoring quickly enough in one-day cricket but will be hard for England's bowlers to dislodge in the Tests if he is playing the short ball well.
The Aussies will also be able to count on the steady left-handers, Simon Katich and Marcus North, who are not part of the limited-over set-up partly because they are best when building their innings in the patient way the longer format requires.
England's batting unit in Tests has plenty of depth. Ironically, Jonathan Trott, whose debut against Australia produced the century that helped win the last Ashes, is potentially the player most at risk with Paul Collingwood, rested for the home Bangladesh series, set to come back into the side.
The man England really need to find some late-season form from is Alastair Cook. The Essex left-hander hit a century in Perth in 2006-07 but had a very quiet 2009 Ashes. Following a good winter, he then produced a top score of 29 in three innings against Bangladesh and is currently out of action with back trouble.
Finally, a word on England's World Cup hopes for next February in the Asian subcontinent.
The bowling does not appear to be a problem, but the batting does. Craig Kieswetter has a terrific eye but appears to require a lot of basic coaching. Kevin Pietersen has developed some sort of worrying allergy for making meaningful scores in the format that was once his bread and butter.
Furthermore, it seems bizarre there is no solid batsman at number six. Instead, this crucial slot is passed out on a rotational basis to either Luke Wright or Michael Yardy, neither of whom have produced convincing arguments that they deserve it long-term.
It may yet be that England will need an extra specialist batsman in the side come the World Cup.