You can almost cut the anticipation with a knife. After nearly 15 months of waiting it's finally here. No we're not talking about Wobbly Wharton's new blow-up doll, we're talking about the Ashes: the greatest contest in World sport. But can England hang on to the treasured urn or will the convicts steal it back again? We asked a few Lymington members for their expert opinions on how the series will unfold:
Adie Hunt: Australia will win it 3-1. We'll struggle to to bowl them out twice, although that's what I said in 2005! Straus will be a key player - if he can have a good series we will have a fighting chance.
Jim Lowe: 2-2, which means England retain the Ashes. 5-0 to the barmy army, all venues drunk dry, and Glenn McGrath retires to take up his new career as a clairvoyant. (like mystic meg, cant get anything right!)
Lloyd Scott: I think it will be 2-3 to the Auzzies
Mike Vimpany: Australia will win at least three, maybe four Tests. Whereas English cricket has taken a distinct down-turn since the Ashes win, Australia are massively motivated and, in addition to having a fervent, partisan following behind them, are man-for-man far superior to England, who will be vulnerable to batting collapses and lean days with the ball, particularly in the pace department. The loss of Troy Cooley as bowling coach is already being felt: quite how Kevin Shine can have been chosen as his replacement is beyond me.
Steve Scott: My predication is 2-1 to the Poms, I think the wickets will suit Freddy and Harmison.
Nick Lee: 2-1 to England because I'm an optimist and I think with my heart! I also predict that Pompey will qualify for the Champions League.
Trevor Phillips: I predicted a 3-1 loss last time and we won, so I'm plumping for 3-1 to the Aussies again! I also predict that Nick Lee is totally deluded!
Simon Naylor: I'm banking on a 2-2 draw with England retaining the ashes. We'll win in Sydney to tie the series.
Ed Molloy: I reckon Australia will win 3-1. England will struggle due to having rubbish bowlers and rubbish batsmen!
Tony Thorp: I think the Aussies will win the Ashes 3-1. In my opinion the Australian batsmen cannot collectively have such a bad time of it. England will miss bowling in English conditions and the loss of Simon Jones will prove to bigger a hole to fill. The Aussies will bat first, pile up a huge first innings total and lob the ball to Shane Warne who is still a mystery to most Englishmen! One positive note for England, Monty will cause the Aussies (and Gerriant Jones!) no end of problems.
John McGuirk: 2-1 or 3-1, but I don't know who to!
And from the other side:
Peter Smith: 4-0 to the Aussies!
Matt Bowdler: No final prediction but Australia will win at least three Tests
All predictions were before the series started, it was just published late.