The international cricket season in England only ended last Monday, but today effectively saw the beginning of the cricketing winter with the announcement of the party to tour Australia for the second half of the back-to-back Ashes series.
The announcement might seem a little premature if you consider that the first Test doesn't begin for almost two months, but this time around the holders are taking no chances and allowing themselves almost a fully month of build-up time, meaning that these players will be boarding a plane in less than four weeks.
Most surprised to be aboard that flight will be Yorkshire's Garry Ballance and Durham's Ben Stokes. The former has been rewarded for excellent form in the County Championship, the selectors clearly being prepared to look past his rather ignominious second ball duck on his one day international debut earlier this month. He benefits from the decision to select Jonny Bairstow, his county teammate, not only as a batsman but as reserve wicketkeeper, thereby freeing up a spot for an extra player.
With England's middle order largely settled, it seems that this could be an 'experience' trip for the Zimbabwe-born left hander, but the selection of Chris Woakes for the final Test last month shows that anyone in form is in with a chance in this England set-up.
Stokes, meanwhile, has earned the second all-rounder spot behind Tim Bresnan. Again, the selectors have turned a blind eye, this time to his expulsion from the England Lions tour last year, and his increasingly mature performances during that one day series suggest that he has marked himself out as the heir to the Yorkshireman should Bresnan not fully recover from the stress fracture that caused him to miss the Oval game.
The other 'fringe' places have gone to Michael Carberry, Monty Panesar, Chris Tremlett and Boyd Rankin. The first and last are also rewarded for some decent one day performances this month, although Nick Compton will feel aggrieved that he has fallen behind Carberry for what could be a vital opening spot should Joe Root's struggles at the top of the order continue.
Panesar and Tremlett, meanwhile, were on the last Ashes tour Down Under, with the latter being a particular success. Their recall seems to mark the end of the experiment with Simon Kerrigan and possibly of Graham Onions' Test career altogether.
None of these selections are as left-field as giving a 19-year-old who has played almost no first class cricket a Test debut and the Aussies have had a good look at all of the players concerned recently, but it still shows a welcome willingness to shake up a squad which had become stale and lacklustre over the summer. That can only improve England's chances of winning a fourth successive Ashes.
England are currently 2.265/4 favourites to win the series, with the hosts 2.3611/8. After failing to take a single game during the summer, the Australians are also a rather generous 3.259/4 not to win a match at home, either. And if you fancy an early bet on the first Test, why not go for England to get the 2013/14 Ashes off to a flying start with a win, at odds of 2.427/5?
Back England at 2.427/5 to win the first Test