The decorations are up, the outside frosty, the wine warm and the Ashes just around the corner. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.
This will be an Ashes series in Australia very different to the rest. Music to the ears of England fans who have endured plenty of long, torturous winter months keeping tabs on goings-on Down Under.
Then again, England have not exactly had the best of times in these parts, and preparations have hardly been far from ideal. Both sides are undercooked, a problem exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, a packed schedule and two teams figuring themselves out ahead of playing out the latest chapter of a historic rivalry dating back to 1882.
It’s hard to gauge what state both sides will be in, beyond Australia’s edge at home off the back of 5-0 and 4-0 series wins in 2013/14 and 2017/18. England’s comfort comes from their opponent’s disarray with Tim Paine stepping down as captain and replaced by Pat Cummins just last month, along with the form of their own leader Joe Root and the return of talismanic allrounder Ben Stokes.
To stay up to speed with all the latest news from the Ashes, The Independent will be sending out a dedicated newsletter the morning after the conclusion of all five Test matches, reviewing what happened and what happens next. All you have to do to receive our Ashes emails is sign up to our free weekly The Sports Brief newsletter.
To receive the dedicated Ashes email make sure you sign up by December 12 and you can do that for free by submitting your email address into the box at the top of this article or by clicking here and scrolling to the sport section.
The first dispatch will be sent to those signed up on 13 December.