Let’s get a few emails in here. My apologies in advance for missing many of these during this morning stint; it going to be that kind of OBO. But I’ll do my best to manage the inbox and the updates.

“I’ve just had my pre-series hair cut and beard trim so definitely ready for action now,” says Brian Withington. “Going along to watch tomorrow for my first Ashes expedition to Edgbaston in about 20 odd years. Can’t wait – like a kid on Christmas Eve who’s really not sure whether Santa will decide if I’ve been naughty or nice.”

Be sure to find us when you get here, Brian. Have a great time.

“Enjoyed the Tim Paine presser you linked to,” writes James Walsh. “Did he have time to list the fifteen Test venues he finds more scary than Edgbaston? I’d be fascinated to know which ones they are. I guess Chester-le-Street, due to the Shane Watson ghost incident, but the other fourteen are a spooky mystery.”

He’s only played international cricket at 18! Was lovely trolling work from Paine, I thought. Means nothing now, of course.

“Having not watched Australia play much Test cricket since the last Ashes, and even then in an often sleep deprived state, I was thinking I didn’t have too much knowledge of Travis Head, or indeed of Tim Paine the keeper/batsman (I’ve read plenty on his captaincy),” says Matthew Potter. “I know a fair bit about the battle for number six due to your discussions on your pod. Care to fill me in? Head likely to make some match winning knocks? Is Paine’s captaincy and glovework worth his one first class hundred?”

Okay, let’s do Trav Head. He was made captain of South Australia at 21; they love his leadership skills. He is no-nonsense but quite Gen-Y in the way he will happily have a lash at anything outside the off-stump, where he is very strong. But he did get caught at third man twice in a Test last summer. Made a ton to finish the home season against Sri Lanka, securing his spot. That he’s vice-captain suggests they see him as a potential long-term skipper. Nice fella, too.

Jerusalem is being sung, rather beautifully, by a choir beneath me in front of the pavilion. This is really cool. Interested in the history of the hymn as it relates to English cricket? I wrote an essay on it.


‘Ben Stokes is heartbeat of this England team’, says Giles prior to Ashes – video


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