It was an up and down series that failed to scale the heights of either achievement or excitement attained four years ago. The heroes were fewer; the teams less obviously gifted; the crowds less generous. And even at the last, England managed once again to draw out a victory that should have been theirs several hours earlier. Still, good for them for winning, in the end. Good for Australia for making such a go of it that the impossible at times almost seemed possible, and good for both teams for giving the capacity crowd a full day's entertainment on a glorious day at the Oval.
It defies logic that, among cricketing nations, Australia remain the team for England to beat and that Ashes series have an edge that other internationals, in any sport, lack. But if, as some forecast, the days of Test cricket are numbered, upstaged by shorter, faster, glitzier one-day matches and Twenty20, it is cheering that the five-day version is not giving up without a fight.