It's Ashes-to-Ashes this summer as England and Australia contest back-to-back series!
The first of 10 Tests - five home, five away - begins at Trent Bridge on Wednesday when both sides will be aiming to strike first and hard to establish a psychological edge that could last the best part of six months.
But the lure of tasting Ashes glory twice so quickly comes with the risk of succumbing to defeat twice over. So would David Gower, Bob Willis, Ian Botham, Nasser Hussain and Michael Atherton take the risk?
skysports.com: Looking back on your playing career, when would you have jumped at the chance to have another crack at Australia in back-to-back series?
BEEFY: I would have loved to have had the chance to play back-to-back Ashes at any point and wouldn't rule out any series, to be honest. The reason I say that is because there is always a bit of baggage carried over from series to series, regardless of the result. This time the players won't have the best part of two years to think about the next series - they'll have about two months - and I think that will add to the intensity of the competition.
If I have to pick specific series, I suppose the two chances I would have most liked to have had another crack at Australia were after the 1981 and 1986/87 series, for the obvious reason that we had them right where we wanted them. The follow-up Tests would have been fascinating and I'm pretty sure we would have had a lot of fun pressing home our advantage. I wouldn't have been so keen to play them straight away, though, if the boot had been on the other foot!
DAVID: Beefy and I differ on this! I understand why we have back-to-back Ashes series this year but I'd much prefer a schedule that allows you to play Australia, West Indies, India or whoever at home and then replay the series away further down the track. I don't like this particular set-up, especially when it involves two five-Test series, even if it means that over a period of time you don't play each other any more often.
There's no way that I'd have wanted to play the West Indies again immediately after losing to them and I don't see why this is any different. I think that an international schedule that spreads the home and away series evenly is a much better thing. It's all too easy to say that I would have loved another crack at Australia straight after the 1985 series - while you are on top you want to play again - but I think that is a very short-term and trite attitude.
ATHERS: There probably wasn't an ideal time to play Australia back-to-back in the 1990s! On the occasions that I did, they were a top-notch side that looked like beating us most times. We got pretty close to getting one over them in 1997 when the series finished 3-2 in their favour, but following that series I was nearing the end of my time as a captain, so at that stage it wouldn't have been ideal for me.
I didn't feel that there was unfinished business after 1997. We started the series strongly and took the lead at Edgbaston but Australia came through and were much stronger in the middle part of the series before we won by 19 runs on a dodgy pitch at the Oval in the sixth and final Test. To be frank, if we played the series again with the respective teams then Australia would probably win again!
NASSER: I've got to go for the 1998/99 series in Australia when Bumble was in charge. We were 2-1 down after Dean Headley had bowled the Aussies out in the fourth Test at Melbourne. We played really well in the final Test, at Sydney, to be honest and if it wasn't for the Michael Slater 'run out' and the umpire giving him not out when he was out, we might have won that Test and drawn the series 2-2 rather than lost 3-1. That was definitely a time when I would have liked to have another crack at them as soon as possible.
On a personal level it would have been great to carry on and on after 1997 when I got some runs against Australia, including the double hundred at Edgbaston. Any time you are playing well against Australia - or playing well full stop - you'd like to play 10 games against them in a row. But when you are not doing so well and the wheels are coming off, there's no way you want to be playing the Aussies at all let alone 10 games on the bounce! Certainly not in my era!
BOB: We went out to Australia under my captaincy in 1982/83 and lost the second and third Tests very heavily. At that point it looked as though we would be totally outplayed. But we then secured a dramatic three-run victory at Melbourne and would have competed far better in the final Test at Sydney had the umpiring been a little bit fairer.
I'll never forget that we ran out John Dyson in the opening over - he wasn't even in the replay when they showed it again on the TV - but it wasn't given. But that's a different story for a different time. We drew the match and lost the series 2-1. It would have been nice to have come back and see how we would have fared in our own conditions.
The senior players - Gower, Lamb, Willis, Botham - really had to stand up and be counted on that tour because there were some guys in the team who wouldn't have played very much cricket at all without the South African Breweries tour. Those players had to be nurtured along and with a bit more experience in the side it could have been very different.
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