Calm before the Cardiff storm
Forget the waiting - it's over. The ground's been built, the pitch unveiled, the players practised on the outfield.
Glenn McGrath made his 5-0 whitewash prediction? Check. Blazered captains posed with the urn? Yup. The favourite old Ashes clips - Willis flapping in at Headingley, Warne bamboozling Gatt, Bradman laying elegant waste - all have been exhumed and enjoyed afresh.
That much we know. What no-one can predict with any confidence is what will happen out in the middle over the next 47 days.
It can't be as close as it was four years ago. It can't be as one-sided as it was two years ago. Beyond that, we're all left guessing and finger-crossing.
The big topic of discussion in town? That pitch.
Everyone who can has been out for a gander. Mike Hussey knelt down on it with his palms outstretched, like a pilgrim in supplication. Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower stroked chins and talked in mumbles. ECB pitch consultant Chris Wood and Glamorgan groundsman Keith Exton poked at it with a screwdriver - gently, of course.
The consensus is that it it'll take spin by day four, its brownish colouring indicating that there shouldn't be much pace or jump - but no-one is really sure.
Drainage improvements to the ground have made it the driest patch of turf for miles, although for anyone who has lived in Cardiff, the idea of the city producing a turning dustbowl is a difficult concept to get the head around. Rain in recent days has also clouded both the sky and people's thinking, which is why both teams delayed naming their final XIs until the morning of the match.
Cardiff is undoubtedly ready for its first ever Test. All 16,000 tickets have been sold for the first three days, with only a smattering of hospitality slots left for Saturday.
To the naysayers who ask why Lord's wasn't first, or why Old Trafford's got the elbow altogether, it's too late to complain. This is a city used to handling the biggest sporting occasions. If it can stage FA Cup finals and successive Grand Slam deciders, it can handle the Ashes.
To those bemoaning the fact that there are no born and bred Welshmen in the England team, there are silver linings. Not only is Alistair Cook's mum Stephanie from Swansea (as a child he honed his cricketing skills on the beach at Caswell Bay, on the Gower Peninsula) but the 12th man for the match is Glamorgan's Tom Maynard, son of the county's director of cricket Matthew.
Late on Tuesday at the ground once known as Sophia Gardens, the stark new grandstands stood empty, the big blue banks of seats looking east across the Taff and north to Pontcanna Fields.
The strains of Delilah and Bread of Heaven were ringing out from a male voice choir getting a final dress rehearsal in. Katherine Jenkins had been and gone, her version of Advance Australia Fair drawing cartoon boos from the lads building the booze and burger concessions all around.
In town, there were no gold-shirted revellers cartwheeling through Castle Arcade or falling out of bars on St Mary Street - not yet, anyway.
It's as if the city decided on a collective early night in preparation for the five days to follow. The only drinks raised so far have been to absent friends - Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Michael Vaughan, Simon Jones, and now Brett Lee.
It'll change. The first wave of Australia fans are parked up in a makeshift campsite just north of the ground, yellow sunhats on, cans of beer in hand
From both sets of supporters there is a mood of cautious optimism. "We beat South Africa at their place, you couldn't beat them at yours," said Brent, originally from Brisbane but up from London for the duration. "Your lot bang on about 2005, but it's like 2007 never happened."
Steve, an England fan loosening up with a nerve-calmer in the Beverley pub, is taking comfort in omens. "We never beat them at Lord's, so it makes sense to start off here. And Graeme Swann's the best bowler in Test cricket this year, so let's see how they handle him."
Four years ago cricket stepped outside mere sporting circles and transfixed an entire nation all summer. It's a lot to ask for it to do the same again this time around, but we shall see. Strange and wonderful things can happen in seven Ashes weeks.