Such a scenario is not so obvious this time, after Ricky Ponting's team became the first Australian side in 24 years to lose by an innings to England, capitulating in Adelaide this week. England retained the Ashes in December 1986 by winning the fourth Test at the MCG inside three days to go 2-0 up with one match to play. Just 2 1/2 years later Border was holding up a replica of the Ashes in England after winning a six-Test series 4-0 with basically the same batting line-up.
Most of the wounds are self-inflicted. Supposedly gifted youth has been glorified and the hard heads have been pushed aside. It is not entirely the selectors' fault. The system has broken down.
They have twice since 2005 had to put up with England holding the Ashes, but in neither case was the victory a rout. This time, it may be. If England win the next Test at Perth, they will have retained the Ashes before Christmas. Preposterous, but possible. What then to do with the pity? Remember it as the emotion most likely to rile an Australian and just go with the flow.
The only ground I can see Australia getting a draw at is Melbourne. If the wicket there is as flat as it has been in previous years then Australia should be able to bat out the match. But I think England should win the third and fifth Tests at Perth and Sydney. The only way I can see Australia fighting back in the series is if Ricky Ponting clicks and makes a big contribution as a batsman, simply because he is capable of scoring a lot of runs in a little time. That would leave his team with plenty of overs to try to work through this solid English batting unit. That is an outside possibility.
Peter English is former Australasia editor of ESPNcricinfo