This men's Ashes will be a unique battle between bat, ball and representatives of besmirched cricket boards.
Wednesday marks the resumption of the storied rivalry between Australia and England, with Tim Paine's sexting scandal and the racism furore sparked at Joe Root's county Yorkshire casting a pall over proceedings.
It is no surprise there is a ceasefire in the phoney war.
This year's war of words never really ignited, outside a pointed Paine remark putting English noses out of joint as Cricket Australia waited for confirmation the bubble-weary tourists would play the series worth $200 million.
It has made for a decidedly unusual build up.
Especially coupled with a quick turnaround from the Twenty20 World Cup, a fortnight of quarantine, Brisbane's heavy rain and Australia coach Justin Langer's mercy dash to give Paine a shoulder to cry on.
The past fortnight has made it easy to forget Australia won a World Cup some two-and-a-half weeks ago, that Langer's job was in the balance almost four months ago, and Ben Stokes was expected to miss this tour until mid-October.
And it has made plotting form lines as easy as forecasting the full extent of La Nina on 39-year-old Jimmy Anderson's potency; not even Glenn McGrath has proffered a 5-0 prediction.
"This series is going to be a lot more closely fought than perhaps some think," Adam Gilchrist said, echoing the sentiment of Shane Warne and several other pundits.
Warne's public attack on Mitchell Starc, fast becoming a cornerstone of the Australian summer to rival Paul Kelly's 'How To Make Gravy', has been one of few sources of regularity ahead of the first delivery.
For Australia, Paine's tearful resignation has left Pat Cummins as the man charged with distilling recent chaos and a rejigged XI into a series-opening win.
Cummins' main-event showdown with fellow captain Root pits the world's top-ranker batter and bowler head to head.
But it is the spearhead's approach to Test captaincy, a responsibility bestowed on no other Australian paceman since Ray Lindwall in 1956, that will arguably prove even more fascinating.
All eyes will also be on Steve Smith, the former skipper now serving as vice-captain, and his dynamic with Cummins.
Moises Henriques knows both leaders as mates and long-time NSW teammates and he used Smith as an on-field sounding board while steering Sydney Sixers to a BBL title in 2019-20.
"They're two very different people," Henriques said.
"I've seen them interact with each other a lot. They know each other really well.
"They almost have different strengths, which is a really cool balance for the team."
Smith, accused of white-anting Paine by former captain Ian Chappell two years ago, is certain to have every gesture scrutinised even more than has been the case since returning from his year-long suspension.
"I just don't think there's anything undermining about moving a fielder a few metres," Henriques said.
"He was so good to have around for us at the Sixers.
"There is that concern of what commentators might say, it's broadcast to millions - 'it looks like Steve's doing this or whatever'.
"Pat will help him through that."
Even if Cummins and Smith can't co-produce a tactical masterpiece, they loom as the two superstars most likely to carry Australia to a series victory through sheer single-minded determination and skill.
Cummins snared a combined 52 scalps across the past two corresponding series, including an unforgettable urn-retaining delivery to Root at Old Trafford, to top the wicket-taking table on both occasions.
Smith's combined mountain of 1461 runs across the same stretch was comfortably the most imposing of any batter, earning player-of-the-series honours in 2017-18 and 2019.
The former skipper's highlight reel on his most recent Test tour was incredibly impressive, especially given the terrifying blow inflicted by Jofra Archer at Lord's.
Archer won't be steaming in this summer, but Stokes proved himself a match-winning trump card of the highest calibre in that same series.
Root enters the Gabba with a record-breaking six Test tons for the year already, and the added confidence instilled by the return of talismanic vice-captain Stokes.
And an attack headlined by Anderson and Stuart Broad, boasting a combined 1156 Test scalps, will not be sneered at by David Warner or any of his teammates.
Warner, sidelined then restricted by a groin injury in 2020-21, struck ominous form at the T20 World Cup.
The contest between Warner and Broad, who tormented the opener throughout 2019, and Alex Carey's baptism of fire behind the stumps loom as decisive subplots.
A sold-out opening day, when Queensland's borders will remain effectively shut to international and interstate cricket fans, suggests there should be a captive audience for the showpiece series.
And the desperation of Cummins' side to stop talking and start walking, onto the fortress breached by India in such stirring fashion during Australia's most recent Test, has perhaps never been so great.
Australian Associated Press