Just 10 years ago Australia demolished England 4-1 to give Michael Vaughan a chastening Ashes debut.
Two years later he, as captain, led his country to their first victory in 18 years to end the Aussie stranglehold on the Urn.
It breathed new life into English cricket and, despite that often glossed over 5-0 whitewash in 2007-08, they have been virtually untouchable against the old enemy since.
The team left for Australia this week with the defence of a 131-year-old 11cm high urn at stake.
But for ex-captain Vaughan the series is bigger than that. England have begun to make a habit of beating the Australians, even if their 3-0 summer success was not as convincing as many expected or as the scoreline suggests.
And the 38-year-old believes the targets must be greater than just another Ashes win for Alastair Cook’s side.
They became the No.1 Test team in the world after a series win over India in 2011 but failed to make it stick. They lasted just a year at the top before being toppled by South Africa and Vaughan expects returning to the summit to be a priority.
“They’ve got to have the goal of making sure they can top South Africa as No.1,” said Vaughan, who played 82 Tests for England, 51 as captain, after making his debut in 1999.
“They got to No.1 in 2011 and didn’t stay there for long enough. They have been trying and they need to make sure they can do that.
“South Africa are not going to lose many games so England are probably going to have to win consistently in the next year and they will go Down Under as favourites.
“In 2011 it was the same and they were on top but this time I think this Australian side are going to be better than that 2010-11 side. They will be more drilled, more together.
“Look at Old Trafford here. There was a bit of pace and I’d be amazed if there’s not pace in the wickets in Australia and England looked vulnerable at Old Trafford. I don’t think the gulf between the two sides – which I’ve heard people talk about – is that huge. I think it’s closer than people think.
“They haven’t played great, I don’t think they played the cricket they set out at the beginning of the summer to play but they were good enough.
“You have to be better than what’s in front of you and England have managed to do that. The key thing is they know how to win. That’s experience.
“They have players who have experience and have beaten this Australian team regularly. They know how to deal with the pressure and England can deliver that more than Australia.
“But the series could have gone either way. At Old Trafford Australia would have won the game if it hadn’t have rained on the last day, no question.
“And they might have got over the line at Durham on the back of winning a game that would have given them confidence. They might have played better at Durham if they had won at Old Trafford and it could have been 2-2 going into the final Test, but England have played well enough and won the key moments.
“It was down to individual brilliance – Broad, Swann and Anderson all produced some quality at the right time.”
Despite England’s recent dominance, Vaughan knows the other side having come into the squad while the Aussies were still top dogs.
He made his Ashes debut in the 2002-03 series in Australia and top scored with 633 runs – including three centuries.
He became the first England player to score three tons Down Under since Chris Broad 32 years earlier.
And while he failed to stop Australia winning 4-1 back then, Vaughan insisted they are now a different, weaker, team.
“You have got to realise it’s different eras. (Steve) Waugh, (Glenn) McGrath, (Matthew) Hayden, (Justin) Langer just didn’t lose at home,” said the ex-Yorkshire batsman.
“They never lost a series at home but these current guys do know how to lose at home. They are not playing good cricket. The Australia team in 2002-03 were the No.1 side in the world in all forms of the game.
“Now they’re not and England have got to make the most of this opportunity to go down there and win again.
“In 2010-11 I thought Australia were very poor, in all facets of the game – captaincy, coaching players, everything about that then wasn’t right.
“This time around they will be a lot better, it’s going to be a bigger challenge for the team.”
That said it is still an Australian side Vaughan wishes he could face.
There is a smile when he is asked whether he would fancy his chances against this side after facing some of the best the Aussies had to offer.
“Of course you would – but they just lack an outstanding spinner,” he says. “If you push Shane Warne into the attack then – I don’t know if it would be up there with McGrath and (Brett) Lee in their pomp – but they would be an outstanding Test match bowling attack.
“Nathan Lyons is good, Peter Siddle is honest. The Aussie bowling isn’t the problem, I think it’s the batting. The bowling is very good.”
Vaughan retired in 2009 having handed over the England captaincy a year earlier when Andrew Strauss took over the job.
He had scored 5,719 runs – including 18 centuries – for his country having led a revival which formed the basis of the current success.
Then the team were on the brink of a breakthrough, but now Vaughan can see chinks in the armour with a lack of serious bowling back-up should their front-line attack drop out.
He said: “You need bowlers, high-quality ones in particular. You can win in England with real seamers but to win in India, to win around the world, you need quality spin and in Swanny they have that.
“I haven’t seen anyone prove they are ready to replace him or back him up yet because we haven’t seen enough of them. (Simon) Kerrigan we saw in the last Test match and I’m sure he‘ll come back into the fold.
“Monty (Panesar) was going through problems but is in and Scott Borthwick at Durham is pretty good, but I don’t think he’s a Graeme Swann.
“Azeem Rafiq at Yorkshire bowls decent off-spin but is going through a decent period.
“I just haven’t seen a real replacement yet. It’s not just the ball Swann bowls, it’s the whole package he’s got – that energy and comedy about him which holds the team together. All the spinners have been crackers.”
It’s not that Vaughan seriously fears for the future though. He just wants to protect it.
The last state school captain of England, he wants to ensure the sport does not become elitist, only available to those with the wherewithal.
He feels it will eventually rob England of talent because those hidden stars will not be given the opportunity at state schools.
Vaughan helps coach the England Under-17s and is seeing a trend of exclusivity through the ranks.
And it is something he is keen to avoid, to safeguard England’s future and hand kids the chance.
“We will always produce sportsmen and women and always to a high standard, but there has to be so many kids out there who are ultra-talented and don’t get the opportunity to be an Alastair Cook,” he says.
“Particularly in cricket, the majority of players who come through are privately educated.
“I was the last state school captain and I look at the next ones in the line and they are all privately educated.
“I deal with the England Under-17s and a lot of them come from private education and I think it’s wrong. There should be more opportunity for state school kids.
“Not just for a way into cricket but for the right coaching. It is important kids learn the right techniques at an early age because they enjoy it more as they get better at it.
“I’ve said for years and years sport in this country is lop-sided. We send our best coaches, or our most high-profile coaches, to the national teams. You look at Spanish football, all their best coaches work with kids and in England we can learn a lot from that.
“By the time they play professional or national team you don’t have to tinker too much. At the moment I just feel we are tinkering with technique and players when they get to the national level.
“That’s wrong – they should know everything by then. What they need to do at the top level is experience the stakes and the failure and successes of being under the pressure of international football, cricket, rugby or whatever.
“We shouldn’t have to be taught technique at the highest level.”
It is a reason why Vaughan is devoting time to charities to give the next generation the chance to play sport – not just cricket – and help the nation’s future hopes.
Last month he completed a 468-mile cycle ride for Laureus and Chance to Shine foundation where he rode between the venues of England’s one-day internationals with Australia.
Chance to Shine links cricket clubs to local primary and secondary schools and pays qualified coaches to deliver sessions and matches in schools.
Laureus raises funds to provide financial and practical support to more than 140 projects which use the power of sport to provide coaching and education to young people. Vaughan was joined by Olympic gold medallist Victoria Pendleton, former England team-mate Andrew Strauss and ex-British tennis No.1 Tim Henman.
And after his first major charity effort, Vaughan believes it is only the start.
“I’ve had so much respect for every Olympian over the year but now I’ve done a bike ride like that it’s grown,” he said.
“Trying to get across the Pennines from Leeds to Manchester and then Manchester to Birmingham in the first few days was tough.
“When you’re cycling with someone like Victoria it hits home. Everything from the technique and the effortless nature they can pedal is so easy.
“She wanted to talk up the hill sand I was saying ‘I ain’t got any conversation with me at the minute.’
“Cycling to London from Southampton through the night – usually I’m in a nightclub at that time – was tough.
“We hope to raise a big chunk, raise the profile of the two charities and give exposure to Chance to Ride because it’s not something we’re going to stop at here.
“We’d like to roll it out every year. It won’t always be around the cricket but we’ve had a good start. People really enjoyed it and that’s the main thing.
“We’re giving kids and opportunities because there isn’t enough sport played in state schools.
“It’s hard because you don’t want to force kids to play games they don’t want to play. I wouldn’t have wanted to, in my time, do more biology or chemistry.
“But for health it’s so important we stay active. If we can encourage kids in school from an early age to do an hour a day that’s a huge ask, whether its dance, teams sports, gymnastics or whatever.
“You can incorporate the fitness and health side with nutrition, I didn’t get any advice of what I should be eating. The way the nation got behind the Olympics, this is the time to capitalise. We have to kick on and in 10 years’ time we need to make sure we’re still learning and gaining from 2012 in terms of giving the kids the chance.”
The ride raised £150,000 but Vaughan distanced himself from comparisons with Sir Ian Botham, who has raised around £12m for leukaemia research and other charities.
But there is a sense duty for Vaughan, who wants others to have the opportunities he is so grateful for.
“Beefy is a revelation for what he’s achieved and I just want to give a bit back,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to play sport for 20 years and, for 10 or 15 days in the year, I don’t think it’s a hard ask for me to try to give something back and grab a few people along the way.”