In a few hours South Africa and Australia will begin another Test series. I and many others believe the three matches will, no matter what the ICC ratings may say, determine the true top Test team in the world.
This has only happened of course because Australia has just walloped England 5-0 and grabbed back the Ashes. Its record in the 2013 series preceding that- 0-4 away to India and 0-3 in England - hardly suggested a resurgence of Ashes clean sweep proportions. Which makes me wonder whether the Ashes triumph was, if not an aberration, then an exaggerated reflection of the true state of affairs.
And, on the eve of this series, some of the old uncertainties have re- emerged: injuries and perceived deficiencies (read George Bailey) compelling a rethinking of the team structure and selectors preferring their gut feeling ( or Western Australian affiliations) to their stated position that current form trumps all (eg Phil Hughes).
So the Australian XI for T1 will have a different batting look ( even though as I write it is yet to be announced) while the bowling attack will probably remain the same as in the Ashes: Johnson, Harris, Siddle and Lyon. Not a bad group, provided they all remain fit.
South Africa may well start favourites: Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Graeme Smith, Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel are world class players. But Jacques Kallis - one of the great Test all rounders (even if IMO not as good as Garfield Sobers) - has retired. He is, in the immediate term at least, irreplaceable by one player.
So, some very interesting questions will be posed shortly and answers, some if not all, provided, weather permitting over the next few days.