2005 vs 2011: Composite England XI
Put those stubborn ICC rankings to one side. After England's stunning 319-run victory in the second Test followed the 196-run demolition at Lord's, only the most intransigent of Indian fans would rate their current XI as superior to England's.
But just how good is Andrew Strauss's team? While we wait for the rankings to reflect reality, let's allow a little fantasy to fill the air.
The current side is both more statistically successful and held in greater affection than any England XI since Michael Vaughan's glorious Ashes winners of 2005. So, if given the chance to choose a composite team formed from the best of those two line-ups, who would you select?
The rules are straightforward: you are picking your players on their form at that time, not across their entire international careers. Your team will be playing at home. And, if the player starred in both 2005 and 2011, you must specify which version you'd prefer.
I'll get us under way. Phil Tufnell is next. Then it's your turn.
1: MARCUS TRESCOTHICK
Trescothick failed to score a single Test century against the Aussies in 2005. It's a statistical wrong 'un. Someone who scored 431 runs at an average of 43, at the rollicking pace and with the bowler-sapping style of Banger, simply has to open the account for this England side. Remember that first morning at Edgbaston? Of course you do. Factor in his rock-solid catching at first slip and the case is surely made.
2: ALASTAIR COOK
The first tester. Andrew Strauss was the only player on either side to score more than one century in 2005. He is a better fielder than Cook, whether going Superman at second slip in 2005 or in at first today. Cook has also struggled in the current series, averaging just five, while in Strauss you have a skipper who has just masterminded a thrashing of Australia on their own patch.
All of that is true. But then there is 766. There is 5,000 Test runs at a younger age than anyone except Sachin Tendulkar. There is the near-certainty of finishing a career with more Test centuries - and runs - than any other Englishman in history. Chef, you're on the top table.
3: JONATHAN TROTT
Based on cold, hard stats, Trott has to get the nod ahead of Michael Vaughan at three. Over the past year he has averaged over 60 at Test level, hit four centuries (including the match-winner in Melbourne) and shown that he can bat - and bat, and bat - all day long, whatever the pressure or pitch.
In the summer of 2005, Vaughan hit that beautiful 166 at Old Trafford. He was always more aesthetically pleasing than Trott. But he also only made 160 runs in his nine other innings that series. Which of the two is more likely to score runs? Who would you back to stick around longer?
4: MICHAEL VAUGHAN (c)
All that is very well. But with no Strauss in the side, Cook's leadership skills unproven and other candidates either tried and failed or without any previous experience, who else is there to captain the side? Vaughan was his country's best skip since Mike Brearley. He squeezed the best from his charges, was innovative in the field and, in the main, made the right bowling changes at the right time.
5: KEVIN PIETERSEN
KP will surely be in everyone's composite team - but which vintage will produce the best results? After rolling it round the mouth, I'm going for the Beaujolais freshness of 2005. There were the numbers - 473 runs at 52 - but there was also the style, the freedom, the obvious enjoyment. His technical weaknesses were yet to be worked out or his flaws exploited. The hair? Terrible, but we all make mistakes.
6. MATT PRIOR
We're starting to get controversial. I was certain I wanted Ian Bell at six - not the weak-kneed innocent of 2005, the rosy-cheeked tyro who averaged a paltry 17, but the peachy timer of today, the most attractive England batsman of the moment and the scorer - at last! - of big runs when it really matters. I'm almost convincing myself again.
But with Vaughan needing to play as skipper, and with the all-round abilities of the chap I have at seven, I had to lose a batsman. As for Prior, well, I'll love Geraint Jones for ever more for getting his gloves round Kasper's nick at Edgbaston, but beyond that it's the easiest decision of all.
7. ANDREW FLINTOFF
402 runs at 40. 24 wickets at 27. The class and character to scare future generations of Australian cricketers for years to come. It would never be as good as 2005 again, but who cares?
Lean, mean bowling machines, but which beanpole paceman would you have in an attack? Photos: Getty
8. GRAEME SWANN
Swann has been out of sorts in this current series against India. Ashley Giles should drink for free for the rest of his life for that 59 at the Oval and the winning runs at Trent Bridge, while the ball that bowled Damien Martyn still shocks me in the very best way.
But nine other wickets in the series is simply not enough to see off Swann, England's most successful offie in decades and a sparky, fizzing essential in the current side's happy blend.
9: SIMON JONES
Nostalgia can be a wonderful thing, even if it's not as good as it used to be. So let's pop off the rose-tinted shades and marvel again at Jones's 18 wickets in three and a half matches, against the best batting line-up in the world at that time, at a strike rate of 34 - a full 10 balls a wicket better than any of his team-mates that summer. To recall the sight of Michael Clarke shouldering arms to Jones's reverser and seeing his off-stump go somersaulting backwards is to truly experience contentment. I'm assuming he's fit, of course.
10 CHRIS TREMLETT
Now the arguments really kick off. What, no Steve Harmison, the teetering, terrifying weapon that drew blood from Ricky Ponting and snatched 17 key wickets, including Clarke with the perfect slower ball and Kasper at the death in Birmingham? No Stuart Broad, the man who has just taken five wickets for no runs in 16 balls - including a hat-trick - after smashing more than 100 runs in the same match?
Harmison first. By 2005 he was already on the decline. For all the menace, there was too much loose stuff - including the ball that Kasper gloved. Tremlett has 36 Test wickets at 24 from just seven matches since his Test recall. He is fitter, far more accurate and almost as fast, and as frightening on the charge as Harmison ever was. Broad? Hardest man to leave out. If he maintains his form from the last two Tests he's in, but the revival needs to be maintained.
11. JAMES ANDERSON
Matthew Hoggard, close to his peak in 2005, took 16 wickets at 29 in 2005 and at times appeared to have the ball on the end of a long invisible wire. Those late in-swingers to the lefties... yet Anderson is quicker, fitter, has more weapons and is possibly the best bowling fielder England have had. Master manipulator of the swinging ball; can also now take wickets when the cherry is staying straight. And he's the superior nightwatchman.
COACH: ANDY FLOWER
Calm under pressure, brilliant on technique, careful compiler of the best backroom in world cricket. Duncan Fletcher: you saved the day and built a brighter one, but your young disciple gets the nod.
FINAL SCORE: Five players from 2005, six from 2011
BONUS SECTION PT I: Phil Tufnell's Composite XI
I did ask Michael Vaughan for his XI. Understandably, considering his close friendships with many of the players involved, he politely declined. Tuffers did not, although he got stuck at several points, went red in the face and had to go for a walk before coming back to complete his line-up:
Trescothick, Strauss, Vaughan, Trott, Pietersen, Flintoff, Prior, Broad, Swann, S Jones, Anderson. Coach: Flower
BONUS SECTION PT II: Composite Opposition XI
Our England side will need a team to play against. Since we're comparing the class of 2005 with that of 2011, it seems to make sense to do the same with the opposition. Combining the best of Australia '05 with India '11 gives me this rather special line-up:
Langer, Hayden, Ponting, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Gilchrist, Warne, B Lee, Zaheer, McGrath
Which side would win such a clash? Very hard to say. Would I pay through the nose to watch? Much easier to say. Yes.
Over to you.