They said what?
As this captivating series closed, Peter English looked back at the months of pre-Ashes hype when Australia were supposed to win 5-0 and Ashley Giles would have been lucky to turn a door handle. Instead the teams left The Oval with England clutching the urn and clumps of players and commentators forgetting their series predictions
The weird and wacky
"I definitely believe if any of our batsmen get out to Giles in the Tests they should go and hang themselves. But I'm confident that won't happen." Giles took 10 wickets - okay, his average was 57.80 - and Australia's batsmen are still breathing.
The Daily Telegraph, Sydney
"What's worse than a whingeing Englishman? Gloating Pommies. One day we'll lose the Ashes and it will be as horrific as waking up after a night on the drink in a room full of images of Camilla Parker Bowles."
"I think I was saying 3-0 or 4-0 about 12 months ago, thinking there might be a bit of rain around. But with the weather as it is at the moment, I have to say 5-0."
"We want to win every game we play in and if we do that and we have created some momentum then all well and good, but I don't take a lot out of one-day series. Test cricket is a different game, there will be a few changes of personnel so we will have to see how it goes."
Neil Harvey on going through undefeated
"With Steve Waugh's team and during the last ten years when England have been down, they still weren't able to do it and I'm not sure why. They should do it this year, I reckon. They are not playing many games, let's face it."
"Hoggard's like a net bowler when you compare him to McGrath and Kasprowicz."
"Harmison and Flintoff have looked the part in the one-dayers, but on Test-match wickets I don't see England having enough firepower to take the 20 wickets. Matthew Hoggard has to come into the equation, but if England are going to stand a chance, Flintoff and Harmison not only have to have a good series with the ball, they have to have an unbelievable series."
"This England team, while they are better and on track, I can't see them beating this Australian team in a game."
Jeff Thomson "England will lose the five-Test series 3-0 and the margin will be worse for them if it doesn't rain. If you put the players from Australia and England up against each other it is embarrassing. There is no contest between them on an individual or team basis."
"I just know Shane [Warne] will be someone who will really hone in on Andrew Flintoff and I'm sure there's a weakness there with Flintoff." Flintoff has finally become the next Ian Botham.
"I'm just a little worried that [Andrew Flintoff] might be rushing back too quickly after the surgery. It took Glenn McGrath six months and some intensive rehabilitation to get back to the level he is at now."
"The one-day series give us the opportunity to pit our skills against theirs, and then we would hope that in playing pretty well, we would assert ourselves and provide some sort of statement about the rest of the tour." Australia lost to Bangladesh and were twice beaten by England in the limited-overs phase.
"If Australia get away to a good start then England have got no chance. They have got to be competitive in that first Test at Lord's or else it's goodnight." Australia won by 239 runs at Lord's and didn't look like matching the performance since.
"We've spoken about the fact that the schedule suits us, but we also realise that the ECB have got their reasons for scheduling things a certain way. It doesn't stuff us around too much with travelling." An absence of lead-up first-class matches has been one of the reasons blamed for Australia's form problems.
"It's a bit of an advantage to Australia to play at the back end of the season. Shane Warne will be happy with that. If you had to choose a schedule, it doesn't get much better for them, and it's fair to say Australia don't need any outside help."
John Buchanan on Michael Clarke "He has been picked as a No. 6 batsman and that remains the key element of his game, but the bowling will be good for his overall game ... It's more important in the one-day game now that Lehmann is not playing, but he may be able to play more of a role for us in Test matches." Back trouble limited Clarke to two overs in the Tests.
The Australian players
"I'm not looking at it as being the first to lose them. I'm looking at being another Australian captain to retain the Ashes."
"I don't really care much for all this 'are they closer?' I really believe that it's all about us - if we are executing our skills I don't believe there's a side that can get close to us."
Glenn McGrath "If Harmison or Freddie [Flintoff] have a bad series, then they're really going to struggle, whereas the Australian team, on any given day, any one of the players can perform well."
"I am feeling match fit and think I'm also approaching the best part of my career. Hopefully, good things come to those who wait." Lee returned to the Test team after 18 months, took 20 wickets at 41.10, and was either batting or bowling as the matches at Edgbaston, Old Trafford or Trent Bridge were decided.
Damien Martyn on England's improvement between Ashes series
"The same thing happened in '93 and 2001. Their results have got better, but every time we go to England they get better - it's the same scenario."
"England are playing fantastic cricket at the moment, they have a great team and I know all the Aussies are looking forward to getting over there. We'll be doing everything in our power to get over there and win every game if possible."
Simon Katich "The ICC tables have us on top at the moment, but we are certainly not taking anything for granted. Our immediate focus is on defending the Ashes before turning our attention in October to the Super Series."
"They're getting on a little bit - we've got back-to-back Test matches so it'll be interesting to see if they can put in the consistent performances for 25 days. It'll be interesting to see if they have the firepower to bowl us out twice."
Shane Warne on Andrew Strauss after Hampshire played Middlesex
"I wanted to have a look at him and see if he had a game-plan against me. That was the first time I've ever bowled against him and I liked what I saw. He walked across to let balls go, and when he tried to reverse-sweep I thought it was a sign that he wasn't sure what to do." Warne dismissed Strauss six times in the series.
"I've been a person that's bowled a few short balls in my time and I've been a person whose copped a few. I know England have tried to bounce our tail to put us on the backfoot and get us out as cheaply as possible." Lee has copped more bruises than any player.
"[England] play with a deal of confidence in themselves and a deal of expectation that they will play well and go on to win the series. They look like they can play different styles of game. They look like they can be attacking if they want to be, and they can play a defensive game if they need to."