Australian cricketers I have feared
Sydney, New South Wales
I've never believed in aliens. I stopped being scared of monsters at the age of six - OK, nine. But there is a bogeyman who has struck fear into me for most of my adult life, and he wears a baggy green cap.
Unrelenting destroyer of Ashes dreams, impervious to anything thrown at him, the Aussie cricketer was everything his English counterpart appeared not to be - hard-nosed, aggressive, indomitable under pressure. The names changed and the series went by, but the menace remained constant.
It first struck me on the final day in Brisbane, and then in the aftermath of that glorious, ghost-slaying win in Adelaide. Perth put it out of my mind, but it was there again from the first morning in Melbourne and hasn't gone away since: I am no longer scared of Australian cricketers.
It isn't just that England have been left holding the Ashes in three of the past four series. Nor is it that, for the first time in almost a quarter of a century, they will leave these shores with heads held high rather than tails between legs.
It's that, of the 17 players Australia are likely to have used by end of the fifth Test, not a single one makes me want to hide under the bed sheets.
Mike Hussey has been wonderful, of course, but he's more to be admired and liked than feared. The rest of them? Once upon a time, the sight of Ricky Ponting marching to the crease was enough to trigger dread thoughts of runs plundered and matches stolen away, but not any more. Shane Watson makes runs but seldom big ones. Ben Hilfenhaus looks like a student teacher, Phillip Hughes his errant pupil. Mitchell Johnson? He's more scared of what'll come out of his hand than any batsman is.
It feels dangerous to talk in this fashion. Such is the power of Australia's decades-long dominance that even musing internally on such topics makes you afraid of some supernatural revenge, the mockers as surely placed on English hopes as if it were Trent Bridge '89 or Adelaide '06 all over again.
It isn't, and you shouldn't be. Michael Clarke could yet hit a match-winning, captain's innings; Johnson may randomly shift into gear and blow the tourists' top order away, England losing the match to end the series tied, but the old aura is absent.
It could come back, just as England have. Maybe in four years time the Barmy Army will be booing Steve Smith and Usman Khawaja to the crease, terrified of the hell they are about to unleash.
In the meantime, by way of laying some ghouls to rest and reminding myself how delightful it feels to be finally free of the shackles of the last 24 years, I've put together a little list of those who scared before. If you find it cathartic, I invite you to do the same.
It's OK. They've retired.
How the young Fordyce laughed when a bloke who looked like a Victorian ironmonger first waddled into Ashes cricket and found himself promptly smashed all around the Gabba by a paunchy, mulleted Ian Botham.
Hughes came into that 1986 Ashes tour having gone for 1-123 on his Test debut and went out of it in no better shape, taking just 10 wickets for 444 runs across the series and going for 22 in that single Botham over alone.
With Bruce Reid at the other end he formed a cricketing incarnation of Jack Sprat and his wife, a cartoon character with a figure to match and as much chance of becoming an international strike bowler as I had of marrying Kelly Le Brock. When he insured the handlebar 'tache for a reported £200,000, his absurdity appeared to have no limits.
Fordyce, you fresh-faced fool. In the three Ashes series that followed, The Swerve took 65 wickets, including 31 in the thrashing of '93 alone, and made mincemeat of knock-kneed English batsman with a barrage of sledging almost more brutal than his bouncer.
Who was laughing then? Certainly not me. I didn't smile again at sport until Dominic Cork's hat-trick against the West Indies more than two years later.
This bloke doesn't look all that, I remember thinking. He's not that fast, and his approach is a bit pigeon-toed, and his track record as a kid wasn't all that goo ...
Ah. By the end, after 157 English wickets at a cost of just 20 apiece, even the sight of McGrath loosening up, latent threat sizzling in those long limbs, was sufficient to induce a crushing depression.
His action looked nothing like the destroyers of the preceding years - Waqar Younis, Curtly Ambrose, Malcolm Marshall - but the result was the same.
He saw off Mike Atherton 19 times in 17 matches - 19 times! But to single out just one victim is to underplay the damage he did to legions of English stooges. The noise of ball hitting stump during that spell of 5-2 at Lord's in 2005 remains my aural definition of doom.
Steve Waugh was the embodiment of the hard-nosed Australian assassin
A large chunk of the school holidays of 1989 were spent staying with my Irish granny in her small bungalow on the Essex coast. Absentminded at the best of times, her extreme forgetfulness in those declining years meant that I could spend as much time as I liked watching that summer's Ashes on telly. There was nothing else to do, after all.
Social workers should have stepped in.
My memories of the period are now reduced to two things: Terry Alderman, trapping Graham Gooch lbw with such regularity that it might as well have been an endless replay of the same delivery, and Steve Waugh batting. And batting. And batting.
He hit 177 not out in the first Test, 152 in the second. At one point his average was over 250.
Alderman popped into the Test Match Special box in Perth a few weeks ago. He was fat, and had a bad beard. It made me feel a little bit better.
Waugh is not fat. Neither does he look a roadie for Fairport Convention. That summer was only the start for him. I could go on to talk about the 16 consecutive Test victories, or the images of him hoisting the little urn aloft, or the way he belted Richard Dawson for four off the last ball of the second day at the SCG in 2003 when he was supposed to be finished.
I could, but I'd rather not. It's better to move on.
Australian wicketkeepers in the 1980s were as memorable as Big Fun, and lasted about as long - Wayne Phillips, Mike Veletta, Greg Dyer, Steve Rixon.
Then came Ian Healy. It wasn't so much his glovework that left deep mental scars as his batting. Just when you thought England had Australia on the ropes, the top order gone, Healy would stroll out to turn the innings around with biff after bash.
He only averaged 30 in Ashes Tests. I've had to double-check that, because it doesn't seem enough. That was his power. He could make even cold hard facts look like lies.
Thank the Lord for that - Healy's retired. This Gilchrist bloke looks alright, but he'll never be as good as Healy.
That worked out well, didn't it?
Did his 152 off 143 balls at Edgbaston in 2001 hurt more than his 57-ball century in Perth '06? You might as well ask whether I'd rather be punched by Muhammad Ali's right hand or his left.
If his dismal trot of 2005 hadn't happened, I wouldn't be able to say his name out loud without my voice quavering. For that - and many other things - thank you, Freddie Flintoff.
When he was spinning it he was terrifying to watch. When he wasn't, it was almost worse.
How could we be getting out to a ball that wasn't even doing anything? It didn't matter. The combined forces of Merlin and Potter couldn't have cast a more effective spell over the English batsmen.
To see Robin Smith, scourge of the West Indies, proud precursor to KP, reduced to thrusting his pad blindly down the line of an entirely different delivery was to see a hero unmasked. To see Gatting and Strauss left motionless as the ball turned sideways was to believe in witchcraft.
Warne's future away from cricket wasn't bright. His future was orange. But with a past like that, who cares?