I know this is probably not possible – the Holden blimp would take too long to fly north to ambush-market the Gabba, for starters – but can we start the First Test of the Ashes series today? Or tomorrow, at the latest?

Starting the actual series is the only way to stop the pre-Ashes hype and bullsh-t which threatens to overrun us all.

In today’s papers, we had Ian Botham weighing in from half a world away with the usual jibes about how old Australia’s team is – even using the “Dad’s Army” line – which was duly rejected by captain Ricky Ponting, who pointed to the young pacemen all fighting for a spot in the team.

Meanwhile, trees were dying to provide the paper for the endless “Can England’s batsmen handle short balls?” debate, while Kevin Pietersen calmly put together 80 not out against Australia’s quasi-Test attack at the SCG and several other Pommie batsmen also scored half-centuries, rising deliveries or not.

Sadly, we have already had our first claim of racism from the grandstands, with exciting young spinner Monty Panesar apparently called a “stupid Indian” during the current match. Depressingly, that was the lead story out of Australia on the international cricket website, Cricinfo. The deepest sigh.

Meanwhile, back in England, Nottinghamshire director of cricket Mick Newell managed to make the news, by blasting the decision to make wicket-keeper Chris Read carry the drinks at the England v NSW tour game.

Read made way for Geraint Jones, despite playing the last two Tests for England, against Pakistan, before a dodgy showing at the Champions Trophy. Jones’s county coaches have applauded his return, naturally.

And the pre-Ashes hype just keeps keeping on. Proving he still knows how to sell newspapers, former Australian captain and long-time media player Richie Benaud has named Ricky Ponting our best Ashes skipper of the past 30 years.

Given Ponting lost the Ashes last time out, yet has been ranked ahead of Allan Border, Steve Waugh, Mark Taylor and Greg Chappell, it’s a big call and a positive boon to radio talkback hosts everywhere.

Mark Taylor, who led Australia to three Ashes wins, didn’t even make Benaud’s best Ashes team. Things could be frosty in the Nine commentary box come the First Test.

Peter Fray

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