1. It obviously depends on what happens in South Africa, but for now at least, Australia is on the ropes. If England manage to pull off a series defeat, they will finally and forever be knocked off their perch, and the door will swing wide open on their mediocrity.
2. It will erase the horrors of the last Ashes, which evidently still haunts the team. (I think Pietersen noted once how difficult it was to hear cries of “Five-Oh” when he was in Australia before losing a rib to McGrath.)
3. It will prove — to some extent, anyway — that Ashes 2005 was not a fluke, but a sign that the English team is worth following and even rooting for. It might also allow the team, paradoxically, to realize that they don’t need to do everything the same way they did in 2005 to win again. They don’t necessarily need Simon Jones (though wouldn’t that be lovely?) or Trescothick or whoever to pull things off. They can do it with Sidebottom, Anderson, Flintoff, Broad and Panesar.
4. Vaughan in, or Vaughan out, a victory under Strauss would clear things up a bit at the top.
At this point, though, I can’t see the English winning: Harmison still looks nowhere near the top he needs to be, and while Broad has matured immensely, the attack still lacks much threat or consistent menace. Which says nothing about the batting, as brittle and Pietersen-reliant as ever. I really don’t know.