Ian Bell's selection for the first Test against Bangladesh at Lord's, starting a week on Thursday, means he has won the first round of a ten-round heavyweight contest involving Kevin Pietersen and Robert Key.
Bell is no physical giant compared with the other two and he is also the youngest of the trio. But, despite giving away weight and age, the Warwickshire batsman not only won the first round but probably the next eight as well before the first Test against Australia (holders of the Ashes), also at Lord's, in nine weeks time.
He will have to do a lot wrong not to play in the two Tests against Bangladesh and four one-dayers in the triangular tournament involving Australia and Bangladesh.
The next stepping stone will be in the three-match one-day series against Australia by which time he should have nailed down his place.
The strength of opposition for new batsmen in international cricket is pot luck. Graeme Hick made his debut against the West Indies 14 years ago yet Bell resumes against the weakest of all Test sides.
Sky Television's one Test this summer is the second one against Bangladesh at Riverside and, to try to ensure some cricket remaining at the weekend, it will be the first Test in this country in living memory to start on a Friday.
Bell has earned selection with more than 500 first-class runs this season, thus leapfrogging Pietersen and Key. The rest is up to him.
The remainder of the 12-man squad was predictable, except possibly Gloucestershire pace bowler Jon Lewis, presumably in the squad as cover for Simon Jones.
Lewis is among the best of a batch of honest county bowlers, most of whom in recent years have flitted in and out of the side, such as Martin Saggers, James Kirtley, Martin Saggers and Ed Giddins. Remember him?
A "cement" bowler such as Lewis has a place in any side but Matthew Hoggard does that job and someone like the promising Chris Tremlett would surely have been a better bet.
Like Harmison, he generates steepling bounce from a similar height and also, as with the Durham bowler, needs an investment of longterm faith to enable him to smooth off a number of rough edges.
He can also bat, as to be expected from a family pedigree of father Tim and grandfather Maurice, who played for England. If Simon Jones and Giles are fit, Lewis will drop out, otherwise cover replacements should be Gareth Batty and Tremlett, although it now appears that Ashley Giles is the major problem, with his hip injury slow to respond to treatment.
It is a shame that both Bangladesh Tests look like being total mis-matches, an inevitable consequence of the International Cricket Council's insistence on reciprocal tours involving all nine countries instead of organising a two-tier system.
At least the top-order batsmen should be happy because, Bell excepted, all are desperately short of runs for their counties. Marcus Trescothick is 14 short of a hundred in seven innings, Strauss is 110 for eight, Michael Vaughan and Andrew Flintoff have one fifty apiece while Geraint Jones has just topped a hundred at an average barely in double figures.
Arch-teaser Shane Warne put down a significant marker at Canterbury on Saturday, dismissing Jones in a devastating manner similar to the ball to Mike Gatting at Old Trafford 12 years ago, and his dismissal of Graham Gooch at Edgbaston in the same series.
The G-Men were bowled despite concentrating on defence; Gatting from over the wicket by one which pitched outside leg stump and hit the top of off, and Gooch from around the wicket as the captain offered no shot but both pads instead, as he tried to kick one away which spun more than two feet and hit the stumps.
Warne went around the wicket to Jones who, as with Gooch, tried to pad the ball away, only for him to be nutmegged as he was bowled through his legs. Jones departed with a fingerwagging gesture which suggests the dismissal just might be referred to later in the summer.
The sell-out crowds for all five Ashes Test matches have produced an angry reaction from disappointed fans around the country and have produced the astonishing legal fact that, while selling or re-selling tickets at more than face value is unlawful in football, it is not in cricket.
While it contravenes the terms and conditions of sale and anyone caught doing it would be prevented from buying tickets from that venue again, the problem of touts must be addressed. If reselling tickets was unlawful, that must be a deterrent.
Ticket agencies and internet auction sites such as eBay have tickets available. Any internet surfer can still buy tickets but an auction of 100 for at least £8,000 shows why ordinary cricket fans are upset. They face a sell-out brick wall of more than 100,000 unsuccessful applications for the Lord's Test, 40,000 at the Oval and close to 20,000 at Edgbaston, Old Trafford and Trent Bridge.
The Lord's Taverners recently auctioned two tickets for the Sunday at Lord's. They went for £650, more than five times face value.
No wonder supporters are moaning. A Suffolk quartet say: "We have followed England at the Oval for many years and applied through the usual channels last November. It took one telephone call to the ticket office to prick our balloon.
"We were told that because of the rise of corporate clients we were unfortunately balloted out." Surrey's waffling reply does not warrant space in this column.
Enjoy this golden Ashes summer - a cricketing and marketing bonanza unlikely to be repeated in 2006 when Sri Lanka and Pakistan tour England and the television rights pass from terrrestrial to satellite.