High drama, low tension
It is a huge thing that tiny urn. It is said that the pursuit of it, defines you. Alastair Cook might agree. Certainly he would say that once humiliated, he was twice hell-bent on revenge. Given what happened in Australia 20 months ago shocked Cook more than anything in his life thus far, you can be sure he is washed over with joy right now. England's win was outrageous. The Englishmen are not a better team than the Australians but they adapted to conditions and won more of the crucial moments. There is great credit in that.
Cook has said that it was after Cardiff he thought they could win. Lord's did not much bother him: a blip, he said. The point was that in Cardiff he saw a team who were not intimidated by the Australian opponent. In fact, he was surprised to see how they relished the contest. Any captain would get a kick from that.
The two tosses that really mattered, Lord's and Trent Bridge, were shared one each. The two others that were good to lose but were won, Edgbaston and The Oval, were shared one each. Only Cardiff is uncertain. There, Cook batted first in damp weather and England were 43 for 3 when Brad Haddin dropped Joe Root. Who knows how different the story of the summer may have been had Haddin clung on.
The margins in the game are small. Ask Adam Lyth. He had been the standout batsman in county cricket until Jonny Bairstow became the standout batsman in county cricket. Ask Jonny too. The game is changing before our eyes. Once, a batsman's primary concern was the preservation of his wicket. Now, the world according to Twenty20 puts no price whatsoever on the preservation of wickets. Indeed, it does exactly the opposite as coaches send out "batters" to play without fear of result or recrimination.
On the occasions in the series that demanded due and care and attention, batsmen fell short of the required method. The exceptions were Cook himself and Chris Rogers. Root has that special ability to change the course of a match and therefore maintains his free-thinking approach under the most extreme examination. Few can do this. AB de Villiers is the best, Virat Kohli is another able to get close on his day. David Warner has the talent and the versatility but not yet the mind. Steven Smith is working on it. Root won the Compton-Miller medal - the overall player of the series - a prize any buccaneering cricketer might dream of. He was also chosen as England's Man of the Series. Stuart Broad was worthy of either of these.
The drama was high but not so the tension. The matches were won and lost easily in an age when the fightback is rare. By the end of the first day of each test, you pretty much knew who held the aces. Bizarre really. Compared to 2005, say, the standard of play was haphazard and a composite team would not feature many from the present day.
Yet television viewing figures, both here and in Australia, were strong. The public are getting used to a frenzied version of Test cricket but two-and-a-half-day, or three-day, matches do not do justice to the skills of the game. It is not that we should wind back the clock to the days of black and white TV and long fought draws, just that it will be harder to find a voice for Test cricket if it becomes too risky to sell a fourth-day ticket.
The key to this is the pitches. Spicing them up is all well and good but weighing the scales too heavily in favour of one discipline or the other is a nonsense. It is the chicken and the egg. Of course batsmen should adapt and apply but, equally, the surfaces should roll out to offer encouragement to everyone. It was ever thus.
If we chart the series, we can easily identify the moments that won and lost each match. The Haddin drop in Cardiff and Root's breathtaking counter-attack, along with the wild Australian bowling and surprisingly fragile batting: particularly the wicket of Warner in the second innings, lbw to Moeen on the stroke of lunch.
The toss at Lord's and the way in which the Australian top three responded to the flat deck. Oh, and England's very fragile second innings performance with the bat. This, incidentally, was the first time that Trevor Bayliss earned his corn. A beaten team needed convincing. He was the man for the job and his nationality sure helped in his conviction. If an Australian thinks Australia can be beaten, it must be true. Or: if you think you can, or you think you can't, you are probably right. Bayliss, Cook and the unsung Paul Farbrace ensured that English minds were back on track.
Edgbaston was a good toss to lose. James Anderson bowled like the sultan of swing and Moeen and Broad came together for a batting partnership of 87 that sucked the oxygen from Australia. After that, the recalled Steven Finn lifted everyone's spirits. In a way, his magnificent return to England colours is the most emotive story of the summer.
Trent Bridge was a freak. A great toss to win for Cook and all-time great bowling performance from Broad. Add in the slip cordon's magnificent catching and you have cocktail that you taste just once in a lifetime. Australia all out 60. Ye gods! Root played his best ever innings and the game was over before some broken folk had set off from home.
Yes, Cook got the Oval toss wrong but, truth be told, Australia were up for it and England were shot. The only way to follow the Trent Bridge euphoria was to follow it quick. The 12 day gap slowed English adrenalin to standstill. The battle was over and the skirmishes that remained felt hollow. Australia played impressive cricket to win at a canter and we all asked the Siddle question. Where has Pete been?
We said goodbye to Clarke and Rogers and hello to Mark Wood and Peter Nevill. We anticipated each day with relish and frequently found our predictions to be miles off the mark. Cricket is a fast-changing game. Will history judge this series to be the one that changed it the most? The future is both uncertain and bright. For the moment, it is set in red, white and blue. But beware, those fellows in green and gold will not rest until the Ashes has defined them too.
Mark Nicholas, the former Hampshire captain, presents the cricket on Channel Nine in Australia and Channel 5 in the UK