Is it safe to be an umpire in Britain? First the tour match between the Lions and the Australians was ended when an umpire collapsed. Now there are reports that an umpire in Swansea has died after being hit in the head by a throw from a fielder.
Not pleasant stuff, but less disturbing than the lead-in to the previous Ashes series in the Old Dart. It is four years and a day since London was awarded the 2012 Olympic Games, and four years to the day since the city was hit by terrorist attacks. Since the days when players are targets in such attacks and umpires are killed had not yet arrived, the series went on and lived up to all the hype that had preceded it.
This time, much of the possible hype has been eclipsed by big events in a form of the game that had hardly taken root back then. There is potential for quite an intriguing series, even though neither team is at the strength they were in 2005. As the original Test rivalry begins again at Test cricket's newest venue tomorrow, I'll be ready, like many times before, for cricket through the night.
England are lacking in recent serious experience. Australia still have spinning/selection issues. Their batsmen, and even Brett Lee, seem to have found a bit of form in the warm-ups, although Lee's series is starting to look like McGrath's in 2005. I don't doubt this series means a lot to the Aussies, but I don't think England will be napping like the South Africans. I am young enough that I can say I don't remember a night-time Ashes series won by England... will this continue?