England still have the chance to become the Ashes heroes of 2015 – and can start by turning on the style for the 10-year anniversary of Edgbaston’s most famous Test.
Captain Alastair Cook says his team’s embarrassing 405-run defeat last week, when Australia levelled the Investec series at 1-1, was “an absolute disaster in one sense”.
They must therefore restate their credentials in Birmingham, and the captain will not be complaining if inspiration is drawn from the thrilling two-run victory which began England’s brilliant 2005 fightback to regain the urn for the first time in a generation.
There are already some spooky echoes, in the sequence of events so far, of those heady days a decade ago – England arriving in the Midlands then, as now, after a chastening setback at Lord’s.
Cook recalls watching from afar on that August Sunday morning as a 20-year-old Essex batsman in Southend where the crowd for a limited-overs match against Middlesex were glued to television screens relaying the action as Steve Harmison finally took the last Australia wicket, Michael Kasprowicz caught behind down the leg-side.
This time Cook himself will be centre stage as England try to keep their bid to win back the Ashes on course.
“It would be a fantastic anniversary of those 10 years to win here after losing at Lord’s,” he said.
“It would be brilliant to go 2-1 up, and it’s certainly an inspiration in one way to know it’s possible.”
England could still lose this third Test and win the series, but the odds would be stacked against them from 2-1 down with two to play. For Cook, any manner of series success will do.
“Even for the stress levels, I would take 3-2,” he said. “It’s 1-1, a three-match series now, and we need to win two games to do something very special.
“That’s what is keeping everyone going.
“Lord’s was an absolute disaster in one sense – after Cardiff to play as badly as that.
“(But) that’s gone now.
“As professional sportsmen, you have to keep looking forward to the next thing rather than keep dwelling on the past.”
Similarly, the spirit of 2005 will not win this match or series for England either.
Cook knows it is down to them to make their own history.
“The lads are talking about the opportunity which is now ahead of us, 1-1 in an Ashes series coming to Edgbaston, a fantastic ground...we’re looking forward to that challenge against a really good side,” he said.
“We can’t wait (for today’s start).”
England’s first task this morning will be to decide whether Mark Wood is fit to bowl after his exertions in the first two back-to-back matches, or whether Steven Finn returns instead as third seamer for his first Test in more than two years since the 2013 Ashes.
Morning rain robbed Wood, and the rest of England’s pace attack, of any outdoor practice on the eve of the Test.
Cook said: “We’re a little bit concerned with Woody, and we’ll have to make that call (today).
“We’ve got to be careful. We want everyone to be as close to fitness as we can.
“Finny’s bowled really well for Middlesex and in the one-dayers. Whoever gets the nod is kind of the lucky one.”
It is of most pressing concern that England get it right with the bat, having fallen into a costly habit of losing early wickets this year, and sought remedy by dropping Gary Ballance, recalling his Yorkshire club-mate Jonny Bairstow, and pushing the out-of-form Ian Bell back up to No 3.
“We’ve found ourselves over the last six months or so three wickets down early on too many occasions,” said Cook. “You don’t mean to be 30-3.
“The idea of the top order is to lay a platform and put miles in the bowlers’ legs. That doesn’t change.”