Beware new boys
There will be a number be unfamiliar faces under those baggy green caps when Australia take to the field in Cardiff but that is unlikely to weaken their side. Skysports.com looks at the newcomers looking to surprise England this summer.
I think we know that whatever Australian side we come up against is going to be a pretty strong one.
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There may be unfamiliar faces under those baggy green caps and different names on Australia's team-sheet but England still face a major challenge if they are to regain the Ashes this summer.
"Is that all you've got", screamed the Times after the announcement of an Australian Ashes squad which, for the first time in over a decade, contains none of the stellar names that have terrorised England for so long.
This time there is no Matthew Hayden, no Shane Warne, no Adam Gilchrist, no Glenn McGrath and no Justin Langer and in their place are a host of names unfamiliar to English audiences.
The theory goes that with England fielding a line-up of proven performers including Kevin Pietersen, Andrew Flintoff, captain Andrew Strauss and Paul Collingwood - all veterans of the 2005 triumph - they should have an edge in class this summer.
But England have been here before. Seasoned Ashes watchers will remember a similar story when Australia landed back in 1989 with unfamiliar names like Mark Taylor, David Boon and Steve Waugh in their ranks.
England were strong favourites, but lost that series 4-0 and did not regain the Ashes until Flintoff, Pietersen and the rest of the 2005 heroes secured such a memorable triumph that summer.
Memories of that disappointing summer will be strong among the senior members of England's current line-up, not least Flintoff who has vivid recollections of watching Terry Alderman dismiss Graham Gooch regularly during that series on television at home in Preston.
Twenty years on and England would be foolish to make the same mistake again and, certainly in the build-up, Strauss has been keen to underline the challenge ahead of his team regardless of the unfamiliar names in the opposition line-up.
"I think we know that whatever Australian side we come up against is going to be a pretty strong one, but we would prefer to concentrate on our own preparation rather than worry too much about who we're going to be facing," stressed Strauss.
"I don't think we're getting carried away by thinking we're the complete article by any means at this stage. We still need to keep improving and keep working hard and there are definitely areas that we need to improve dramatically if we want to be the best team in the world. We're making small steps and we're going in the right direction."
Strauss' reluctance to become over-confident by the unfamiliarity of the Australian squad is understandable considering what has happened in the past.
Peter Siddle, Phil Hughes and off-spinner Nathan Hauritz, the only specialist slow bowler in the squad, may not be household names as yet but the Ashes does have a habit of turning unknowns into heroes.
"When Shane Warne first turned up here no-one had heard of him either," argued England off-spinner Graeme Swann.
"He'd bowled once in India and got smashed all over the place so everyone thought England would walk that series and we ended up getting heavily beaten and a star was born there.
"I'm not going to say we've got one up on them here and there because you never know what the Aussies have got, they've always got a strong team."
What England can take encouragement from, however, is the inexperience within the Australian ranks of playing Test cricket in English conditions with only four players - captain Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Brett Lee and Simon Katich - having played in 2005.
Of course Australia have attempted to address that possible weakness in their armoury by exploiting the counties' eagerness to secure high-quality overseas players on lucrative short-term contracts.
Marcus North, Shane Watson, Stuart Clark, Katich and Ben Hilfenhaus have all featured for counties in recent years, but the most high-profile signing was that of Hughes by Middlesex to give him a vital few weeks' preparation in English conditions.
Left-handed opener Hughes scored 882 runs in 13 innings in all competitions with his recruitment widely criticised, particularly as it came just a few months before an Ashes summer.
For all the rights and wrongs of Hughes' appointment, which was fiercely defended by Middlesex after they signed him in advance of his selection for Australia, England do believe they can perhaps exploit the home conditions.
In 2005 it was the ability of Flintoff, Matthew Hoggard, Simon Jones and Steve Harmison to make the most of conditions - in particular reverse swing - which laid the foundations for their unexpected triumph.
They now have a swing bowler in James Anderson who has become highly proficient in home conditions, which was underlined in his 11 wickets in two one-sided Tests against West Indies earlier this summer, and could provide a similar threat to Australia.
"We may possibly be able to look at using the conditions, but any Australian side that comes over here is going to be pretty strong," added Strauss.
"The most important thing is that we play our conditions well - we obviously know them so it's up to us to play them better than the Australians do."
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