Rashid conundrum faces England
To the Kennington Oval, where England's Test summer traditionally draws to a close. The sense of an ending will perhaps be more acute than normal, with the series decided and Australia bidding farewell to two distinguished players in Michael Clarke and Chris Rogers - maybe a few more, as yet unknown, besides.
Endings, however, are often inextricably linked to beginnings and England can glimpse a future rich in promise. Sportsmen habitually talk about taking things one game at a time and Alastair Cook has diligently been encouraging his players to focus on a fourth victory, something England have never previously achieved in a home Ashes. They will not yet be allowed to dwell on the challenges of winter tours to the UAE and South Africa, even if the temptation is there.
Temptation is a tricky business though. England have played like high rollers throughout an unexpectedly joyous summer but, with their Ashes winnings banked, they face the gambler's dilemma: whether to stick or twist. Thirteen players have been used so far but Adil Rashid has not been one of them. The Oval could be where his number finally comes up.
Selection is less clear cut than was previously the case, with England having to balance the desires of James Anderson to play against a logical wish to protect him from the side strain that kept him out at Trent Bridge. Similarly, Mark Wood has done nothing to warrant being dropped - he claimed the wicket that sealed England's reclaiming of the Ashes 10 days ago - but his ankle problem is an ongoing management issue for the medical team.
One solution might be to play both Rashid and Moeen Ali. There was still some grass on the strip being prepared at The Oval but surfaces here have tended to be more responsive to spin in recent years. Even as England practised under the sort of iron grey skies that helped their seamers tie Australia in knots at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge, it was Rashid and Moeen who began a stint bowling in tandem to Cook and Adam Lyth in the nets.
Meanwhile, on a separate pitch, Anderson, Wood and Liam Plunkett, the fifth fast bowler in England's 14-man squad, bowled to a set of plastic stumps. Would it be too simple to conclude that the other 11 might constitute the XI on Thursday morning?
Perhaps we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves. Steven Finn has spoken about the strength of England's four-man seam attack in helping to overcome Australia and changing things around to include two spinners would be tantamount to fixing something that isn't broken. England have repeatedly stressed their ambitions for 4-1 and an unsettled forecast might also incline them to stick with a settled side.
Recent experimentation in this field also provides a warning. England have seldom arrived at The Oval with the Ashes secured, at least in the modern era, but the last time they did so was in 2013, when they celebrated by popping the cork on a couple of selection surprises. Chris Woakes may well go on to have a distinguished Test career but his fellow debutant, Simon Kerrigan, seems destined to be remembered for a jerky display of slow left-arm that was rapidly dismantled by a rampaging Shane Watson.
Kerrigan's eight wicketless overs for 53 runs did not recommend him for future skirmishes, though he perhaps wasn't helped by the woolly thinking that led to his inclusion. As Mark Butcher pointed out on the most recent Switch Hit, the circumstances on this occasion provide sounder reasons to have a look at Rashid, with England's next three Tests to take place on the slow surfaces of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.
"England were going straight to Australia after that series and what they needed to do was figure out who their five quick bowlers were going to be to take on Australia in Australian conditions," Butcher said. "This time, completely different, they're going down to the UAE to play against Pakistan on what will undoubtedly be spinning pitches."
The likes of Jason Gillespie, Rashid's coach at Yorkshire, and his county and England team-mate Joe Root believe he is ready to play in Tests and Trevor Bayliss has previously suggested he is open to fielding two spinners if conditions dictate. There is less of the risk associated with Kerrigan, too, as Rashid has already played ODI and T20 cricket for England and come back from his own spell in purdah. He also has ten first-class hundreds to his name, which would be more than handy for a No. 9 batsman.
The last two Ashes series in England have featured a spin-bowling subplot at The Oval, after Graeme Swann went to work on a turner to secure victory in 2009. That match also featured an Ashes debutant; four years later, Jonathan Trott was still England's anchor at No. 3.
There are mixed portents, then, for Rashid to make this ending his beginning, though with England having missed the opportunity in the Caribbean earlier this year it may be a gamble that Bayliss, a man known to have a weakness for legspin, is willing to take. Even if Moeen can sustain his position as England's No. 1 spinner, he will need considerable support against Pakistan. Sooner rather than later England are going to have to go all in.
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick