Australia skipper Steve Smith put the Ashes rivalry to one side during the recent Indian Premier League when he helped mentor England vice-captain Ben Stokes.
Smith, who is a fiercely competitive batsman, and fiery all-rounder Stokes will be among the most high-profile combatants in the five-Test series that starts on November 23 at the Gabba.
However, during the IPL they were teammates at finalists Rising Pune Supergiant.
Stokes was sold for a staggering $2.8 million in the league’s auction, with Pune skipper Smith telling the franchise’s owner to “just do what you have to to get him”.
The Englishman returned the favour by being named the event’s Most Valuable Player (MVP); if he was available for the finals then Smith’s side may well have won their first title.
Stokes revealed on Monday in England that the pair talked tactics during the tournament.
“It was really good,” Stokes said.
“I remember doing a batting session with some power hitting towards the end, where the guy who I will actually be playing against in the Ashes … was helping me.
“Which is something that you would never be able to fathom when you are playing against each other.
“The IPL is probably the only place where you get that … once you get in the same team together you obviously want the same goal, which is to win.
“And if a guy wants to improve on something and another guy has a tip that can help, they are obviously going to share that with you.”
It isn’t always the case in the IPL.
India offspinner Ravichandran Ashwin largely kept to himself and bowled leg spin in the nets to IPL teammate Smith in 2016, not wanting to give the batsman any insights before this year’s Test series.
Smith and Stokes will square off in the pool stage of the Champions Trophy, which starts next week and is being hosted by England. Bookmakers expect both Australia and England to reach the final.
“We’ve earned the right to be the favourites,” Stokes said
Paceman Josh Hazlewood admitted Australia’s first-choice ODI side was far from obvious ahead of their tournament opener against New Zealand on June 2.
“Over the last six to 12 months there’s been a few people rested on different tours and injuries as well,” Hazlewood said.
“That first game is going to be a tough gig for selectors. Every player in the 15-man squad puts a good case forward.”
Most of the interest is centred on whether Australia finally unleashes a fearsome four-prong pace attack of Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and James Pattinson for the first time ever.
“It’s pretty exciting. We’ve grown up playing against each other a lot of the time in different tournaments, under-17s and under-19s,” Hazlewood said.
“It’s great to have us all here together and bowling well.”