The big debate going on in British politics at the moment is about aged care and pensions — and if you wanted proof of just how long Poms are living these days, get yourself down to Lords and join the queue for the pavilion where the average member probably still recalls the last time England beat Australia at cricket’s HQ.

It’s quite a sight: squadrons of ex-wing commander types in their Oxford Bags, blazers and bacon-and-egg ties, wielding copies of the Telegraph sports section and resolving arguments over batting averages with animated use of their walking sticks (you can risk a nasty flesh wound after lunch, if you’re not careful).

I’ll be there with my 87-year-old father, who played a pretty good standard of cricket for something approaching half a century. He’s a bit lame these days but remains one of the keenest-eyed analysts of the game that I know and has that bitter realism that comes with seniority (and long experience).

In 2005, when I, and most other young fogeys in the members’ bar, were “in excelsis” following Harmison’s pre-lunch blooding of Ponting, Langer et al, Dad was more circumspect: “What’ll McGrath do on this wicket?”, he cautioned. Of course, I and my mates took no notice and spent the lunch break looking for Aussie fans to tar and feather in the pubs around Lords.

We soon learned Dad was right. McGrath cleaned up.

Well, he won’t be there and neither will Warney — or his portrait. It always struck me that, in the mind games surrounding the Ashes, it was always conceding a few points to have England’s batsmen walk out to the middle past a portrait of their chief tormentor, larger than life and grinning like a monkey. (Actually the portrait was subsequently altered when it was judged to be a little too larger-than-life in the trousers department, though I gather Shane has never conceded that point.)

It will be good to make the four-yearly pilgrimage to Lords to catch up with some old faces, including my Dad’s mates, who open their first bottle of bubbly shortly before play and drink steadily through to an early lunch and a liquid tea, followed by a nice nap through till stumps.

Then there’s the orotund chap with the walrus moustache and panama hat who takes up a permanent position on the balcony (look out for him, he’ll be there — and try to imagine him looking anything but ludicrous in any other surroundings).

The talk will, of course, all be of gamesmanship. It looks as if the UK press has succeeded in getting under Ricky Ponting’s skin once again, something they didn’t manage until Trent Bridge last time, which must confer something of an advantage to the home side.

Ponting came out bleating in today’s Telegraph, with an “it’s not fair … I was very disappointed … spirit of the game” piece, when really all the Australian captain need do is let his bat do the talking. In the same supplement, Simon Hughes — a former county trundler now dubbed “the analyst” — levelled the charge that Ponting’s attitude is now poisoning the next generation of young cricketers and putting the game’s future at risk.

It’s all tosh, of course, but anything that causes a furrow or two to the Ponting brow when he should be concentrating on matters at hand can only be a Good Thing if, like me, you’ve been talking up England’s chances for the past 12 months.

All this needle so early on must bode well for a bitterly contested Ashes series. Let’s hope so.

Listen to or download the inaugural Crikey Sports Ashes Podcast, where Leigh Josey and Jarrod Kimber discuss the latest happenings from Lords.