HOME advantage plays a big factor in cricket but it seems it is becoming increasingly important in the Ashes.

England are currently revelling in a five-day victory lap at the Oval after securing the current series with one Test to play.

I have heard it described as a shock win by a number of pundits but recent history doesn’t really back that up.

Yes, Alastair Cook’s side started the summer worryingly inconsistent after two drawn series against West Indies and New Zealand.

And yes, their confidence had taken a hammering after a first-round exit from the World Cup and a whitewash humiliation in the last Ashes series, both held Down Under.

But it seems all of those factors pale into insignificance when measured against home advantage.

Out of the last eight series England and Australia have contested, only once have the tourists gone home with the urn, when Andrew Strauss’s men claimed a 3-1 victory in 2010/11.

When the Australians dominated the head-to-head, winning eight series in a row, their run started in England in 1989 and included four straight victories on English soil before Michael Vaughan’s men claimed the spoils in 2005.

But I think it is fair to say that was an exceptional period in the history of the Baggy Green, when the country produced such a consistently talented crop of cricketers over such a long space of time.

Unless either nation produces a side to match the likes of Warne, McGrath, Waugh, Gilchrist and Hayden then it is difficult to see how that can ever happen again.

The truth is that the wickets are now prepared so differently in England and Australia that the home team, who are used to playing in their own conditions, now have too big an advantage.

And while there is no onus on the host nation to produce a neutral wicket that favours both sides equally there will never be a level playing field again.

Once upon a time I would have had little sympathy with any professional cricketer who moaned that they were unable to adapt to foreign conditions. That is the challenge of playing international cricket.

But the time scale that these guys now work to on modern tours just does not give them a fair crack of the whip.

This year Australia played a couple of warm-up games against county sides, in contrast to the five, six or seven matches in previous years, and then the majority of Tests were played back-to-back, meaning they could not fit in any extra practice games.

England face the same rushed schedule when they play Down Under, which has led to two 5-0 defeats in the last three series.

Big Test sides now fit in an average of three series a year, rather than two, and are involved in T20 competitions as well as one-dayers.

That is not to mention the draw of cricketing events like the IPL and Big Bash.

The unintended consequence of all this is that Test series are becoming less competitive and more predictable, once you factor in the home rule.

I can see the wider public, outside of the hardcore cricket fans, only putting up with this for so long before interest starts to wane and victory in the Ashes will be greeted with a shrug of the shoulders and an “I told you so, mate”.