Whilst the teams in the lower half of the top four in ICC world rankings begin another clash in Perth, across the Indian Ocean at Centurion in South Africa, the two strongest cricket teams on the globe face off in the first of three classic matches. This top of the table series, strangely played over only three Tests rather than a more fitting five, can't move India from the top spot but certainly offer the promise of some wonderful cricket.
Between them, South Africa and India boast five of the top ten batsmen in the ICC rankings and four of the bowlers and the match ups are spectacular. Gambhir and Sehwag are arguably the best opening pair of the last twelve months and they'll start the Indian innings against Steyn and Morkel, just as clearly the form combination with the new ball. The two batting line ups sparkle individually and when stacked against each other ... Smith, Petersen, Amla, Kallis, de Villiers, Prince for South Africa and Gamhir, Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Raina for India. It has to be said that India's top five have hardly a fault to be found but then there is nothing much wrong with the hosts. Both sides can carry their number sixes because everyone above them has been in superb form.
With such strength in batting, the bowling line ups might make the difference. Steyn and Morkel are a deadly combination but the third quick position is a weakness for South Africa and even though Zaheer (under an injury cloud), Sreesanth and Ishant are no match individually for the South Africa pair, on their day they can be effective. India has the better spinners, with Harbhajan still their trump card. Even if the locals prepare fast, hard tracks that don't spin, the bounce will be a major asset for Harbhajan.
India can expect pace friendly wickets, a reason why Zaheer's fitness before the first Test has been such an issue and they must overcome the tendency they have to under perform away from home. With such a big lead in the rankings, perhaps the edge might off their game but as so many of their players are in the senior ranks, there won't be too many more chances to go to South Africa and win.
In the end, it may be the unseasonal weather which has bought rain to all of the Test venues this summer which usually swelter under searing heat around Christmas. The first day of the series at Centurion looks more suited to swimming than cricket and the latter days may be no better. Under those circumstances, Smith looks to be more the gambler and his nerve will be tested under the pressure to create winning opportunities for both teams through inspiration and creative declarations. Baiting India into taking chances away from home is an art no other international captain has mastered but Smith has shown himself prepared to use the Stephen Fleming phrasebook in his cricket conversations during Test matches.
Either way, its a short, sweet little delicacy about to be served to the cricket hungry patrons in South Africa and to a broader audience in India and beyond, whose diet of fast food cricket has left them full but unsatisfied in recent years. The constant over supply of meaningless ODI and Twenty20's which stem from the greasy cricket kitchens of Mumbai have us all sick and tired of being told how to suck an egg, so the contrast of compelling servings of of cricket scrambled, fried or benedict as the Ashes makes new history or as the best of flannelled chefs make omelettes in South Africa, is enough to whet the appetite of the stalest palettes.
May the five day game never change.