Calling the shots
It will be close - but Panel predicts England can hold onto the urn...
There's nothing sweeter than winning the Ashes in Australia.
As England prepare to try and emulate the feat of Mike Gatting's side of 1986/87, skysports.com's Ashes Panel has reconvened to assess whether this England squad has what it takes to retain the urn.
So without further ado, here is how former England captains David Gower, Sir Ian Botham, Bob Willis, Michael Atherton and Nasser Hussain think the series will unfold.
skysports.com: It's been a long wait but the Ashes is finally here so it's time to get your predictions. What do you think the result will be and why?
Nasser Hussain: Australia 1 England 2
I'm going to go for the same score-line as I did in 2009, when I was incredibly correct! That said, I do feel Australia are slight favourites going into the series; they are playing at home at grounds and in conditions that they are very used to against an England side that hasn't played a lot of cricket in Australia.
History tells you that it's not easy to win against Australia on their own patch - even this Australian side - but England have a swagger, a genuine confidence about them at the moment. Graeme Swann, Stuart Broad, Kevin Pietersen and Matt Prior are all very confident players who back themselves to the hilt whatever the circumstance and that will stand the team as a whole in good stead. Plus this side - unlike others that have toured Australia - know what it is like to win the Ashes. Collectively, they have less mental scarring than their predecessors.
That doesn't mean they should underestimate Australia. The stats suggest they remain a very good side and up until this summer, their record at home is exceptional but they do have a number of players who are at, or reaching, their peak - guys like Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Mike Hussey, Marcus North - whereas England are a team for the future. They haven't reached their peak yet; I genuinely feel this England side could go a long, long way. Every cricketer in this England side is on the up with the possible exception of Alastair Cook.
Sir Ian Botham: Australia 1 England 3
England have got all the momentum and, as I said at the end of last summer, they will win this series by two Tests. I'm expecting that to be the case, not hoping it to be. The only proviso to that is the weather - if it intervenes we could see a drawn Test or two.
Graeme Swann is flying at the moment and, generally speaking, the England bowlers are taller and quicker than their equivalent in the Australian ranks, which means they should get more out of the pitches.
England looked good in the summer and, that ridiculous boot camp aside, most of their build-up to this series has gone to play. They are a tightly-knit, focused unit in which everyone pulls for each other and that gives them a distinct advantage going into the first Test; they know they have to hit the ground running from day one and everything suggests they are in great shape to do so.
In contrast, Australia look like a side that have got a lot of problems and I think they will be very worried at this point in time about both the form of the batsmen and bowlers. They've got most of the media on their backs too which can only count in England's favour. It's definitely England to win by two Tests for me.
David Gower: Australia 2 England 2
Like Nass, I'm also going to go for the same scoreline that I went for last year - only this time it will be enough for England to keep the Ashes! There seem to be relatively few draws these days in international cricket unless games are played on the deadest of dead pitches - and that won't be the case in Australia. Sides also tend to play more attacking cricket these days too, by and large, which can lead them to make more mistakes. The way these two sides are set up means that I can see there being results.
The Australians go into this series with rather more problems with form than England, who are shaping up rather better. Much will, of course, depend on captain Andrew Strauss at the top of the order because solid leadership and getting good starts help to set up the rest of the game. Kevin Pietersen's form will be all important too - if he plays well it will make all of the difference to England's potency. Graeme Swann's form is the key to England's plans because if he's on top of his game the selectors can play four bowlers with Paul Collingwood in support.
Australia, for their part, are wondering if they have lost it a bit. They have certainly lost confidence - or to use a word that has been popular in the last couple of years - some of their aura. They've got plenty of things to sort out. That makes it our best chance since 1986/87 to turn the tables on Australia on their own patch.
Michael Atherton: Australia 2 England 2
Very rarely does a side visit Australia and win three games but England could get close. I'll stick with 2-2 even though I'm actually feeling more confident now, having been in Australia myself for just over a week, than when I left England. In that time I've got a good feel for how confident England are and how pessimistic the Australian press and public are about their team.
England are a good side but they are not a great side by any means, which is why I can see Australia winning at least one Test. The batting looked vulnerable earlier this summer when the ball nipped around and they were 137-5 in Hobart last week as well before Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood bedded in for their big partnership.
There has been quite a lot of rain around these parts in recent weeks and people are expecting conditions to be bowler-friendly, in which case England's batsmen will have to work hard to get their runs; we've got some good batsmen, no doubt, but they have shown vulnerabilities in the last year and Australia - who are lacking confidence but are certainly not a team in turmoil - will be confident of knocking England over.
Bob Willis: Australia 2 England 2
The bat is going to be on top of the ball for most of this series so a lot depends on how each attack bears up to shouldering the burden of playing five Tests in six weeks - a heavy workload in any bowler's book. In modern cricket we tend to get close to 90 overs a day more often than not and the run-rates are usually healthy too, all of which means we are getting a lot of results. That trend should continue in Australia.
I'm very impressed with the way Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss have handled the build-up to the series and the unity they've generated within the camp; everyone seems to be singing off the same hymn-sheet which was a key feature of the side that won in 1986/87.
Moreover, Strauss has developed into a very strong leader and won't be susceptible to the mental disintegration that Australians are prone to bandy about before each series. Rather, the pressure is building up on Ricky Ponting - one of the game's best batsmen but someone whose captaincy I've never rated highly.
I think there is a good chance that the weather will intervene in this series - but only once - so I'm expecting four positive Test outcomes. Australia are my favourites to win at Brisbane and Perth, while England should have the edge at Adelaide and Sydney. That means England retain the Ashes.
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Martin Ward says...
Kai Everill says... 3-1!we are the greatest team out there at the moment???does that not include losing to bangledesh in the one day series and losing to Pakistan at the Oval?here we go again everyone is getting carried away with England!(who last year by the way could only just beat Australia at home 2-1) When the actual cricket is played, FOR REAL, in Australia, where we have possible the worst record in winning test matches in history.we are going to find it very tough and will be very lucky to draw the series 2-2!! I so want England to win but having watched England play over the last 20 years i am not going to start kidding myself into believing England are going to walk it and are the greatest team out there...because it will end up being the same result as always 3 or 4 - 1 to Australia!!!! Posted 16:26 23rd November 2010 I hope the recent events have helped your appetite Kai - as the Engalnd team have rammed your opinion back down your throat
Posted 00:40 2nd January 2011
John Tait says...
there are complimentory comparisons to be made between the current english fast bowler, Tremlett, and the aussie fast bowler, of a few years ago, (GARTH) Mc Kenzie. Who had a good career both in aussie cricket and english county. He was a prolific bowler for leicestershire, plus, he could bat a bit too. whats your opinion??
Posted 22:39 26th December 2010
Caron Gilbert says...
I am wondering where is Nick Knight for the Ashes. I haven't heard what he is doing.
Posted 21:19 24th November 2010
Robert Booth says...
If we are going to lose this series lets lose it by a big margin! I dont think I could have been an Aussie in 2005 or 2009 with my nerves!!! Come on lads lets show the world England are back amongst the best teams in the world!!
Posted 19:24 24th November 2010
Kevin Pietersen's says...
KP will do all right in the series - there are ten innings to be played and, no doubt, in at least 1 or 2 of them he will come good and get a biggish score. Hard to see him getting an average of less than around 30/35 - which will be enough. But don't necessarily expect him to perform when you want (in the first test and first innings eg). He is playing himself back in to form; and we should be glad when we retain the Ashes and he's 'only' got an average of 30/35 cos that will have been enough at that point; if not near his best scoring and averages.
Posted 18:25 24th November 2010
Jordan Charlesworth says...
I'm going for an Australian win. Taking away both teams form the Ashes is different and nobody likes to lose. Australia to win back the Ashes on home territory 2-1. Come on Australia!
Posted 18:23 24th November 2010
Kai Everill says...
They badly lost there way. took their foot of the gas?!why is that in your eyes an exceptable reason for England to lose 5-0!!or maybe its more to do with the fact that when Australia are at home they are a totally diffrent opposition...whats the reason for why, england have lost down under since 1986?im not being negative im being realistic...it makes no sense how we are going to beat Australia at their home 3-1!!! the last two times in England we have played them we have only beaten them 2-1 playing in conditions that England are used to.But now we are going to Australia to play in conditions that England have done very poorly in the last 24year we are going to all of sudden beat them 3-1...its not going to happen.i hope i am proven wrong but beating Australia down under is going to be very hard work.thats why winning 2-1 is more realistic if more sessions in the game go our way.if not Australia will win 3-1..
Posted 16:02 24th November 2010
Andrew Kenneally says...
Just on the point that England are the best world side at the moment - well at this moment I would suggest Strauss is the only English batsman who could be considered good enough to make it into the Indian side. Players like Cook, Collingwood, Bell wouldn't be remotely considered worthy while KP would with their competetion for place probably find himself dropped.
Posted 13:03 24th November 2010
Jezza Jezza says...
i think all posters saying 3-1 england and 4-0 australia are seriously missing the point...england are the team in form, Australia seem to be a little confused but they are at home...I was there the last time england won down under and it was close, and I think it will be this time...England won the ashes because Australia had a couple of bad sessions and england took advantage, and I think that will be the case again..I can see a drawn serious or a win by either side by one test, and my heart says Ebgland but you can never right off the aussies
Posted 12:45 24th November 2010
Adam Whiteley says...
Kai Everill, after England played and BEAT australia in 05, they badly lost their way, by their own admission. Going in to the Ashes in 07 they even said they took their foot off the gas more or less as soon as the 05 series was won. Now let's put the boot on the other foot shall we, typical example of someone who is negative, had this series been comeing up with australia been bang on form and england playing like cumps, then australia would be talked up as hammering england 5-0, so how come, when its australia that that are badly out of form, and engand are bag in form, engalnd are still, in your opinion down to loose? i mean how fickle are you? face it, australias record down under will end sometime, and theres no time like the present!
Posted 11:41 24th November 2010
Frank Smith says...
Slip inside Ricky Ponting's mind He's trying to find Some new players to play He wants to play his older team ...But that's just a dream They're too old to play He said he'd start a revolution in his head But he's been through all the players A to Z Now there's just a summertime of doom If he loses the Ashes race He is going to lose his place Losing three would simply tear his heart out So Ricky can wait Shane Warne is too late And there's no Glenn McGrath Gilchrist's had his day And don't look back to Langer He cannot play Where did all those old players go Now everyone knows You've nearly had your day You'll have to leave the team in the hands Of Michael Clarke and He'll throw it all away He said he'd start a revolution in his head But he's been through all the players A to Z Now there's just a summertime of doom If he loses the Ashes race He is going to lose his place Losing three would simply tear his heart out So Ricky can wait Shane Warne is too late And there's no Glenn McGrath Gilchrist's had his day And don't look back to Langer He cannot play So Ricky can wait Shane Warne is too late And there's no Glenn McGrath Gilchrist's had his day And don't look back to Langer He cannot play At least not today
Posted 11:02 24th November 2010
Kai Everill says...
When it comes to playing Australia in Australia Momentum and results dont mean a single thing.If this were true why in 2006/7 after we beat the Australians2-1 to win the ashes in 2005 with momentum and a whole years, results behind us did we lose FIVE - NIL!! The reason i mentioned England losing to Bangledesh and Pakistan was because someone said that "England are the greatest team out at the moment''. South Africa, India and Sri Lanka are above us in the rankings so that statement is NOT TRUE..In terms of being realistic the FACTS still remain when England play Australia in Australia, England STRUGGLE.That statement is a FACT.How if anyone is being realistic can you claim that England will win 3-1?Weve not even achived that score at home...can someone please tell me last time England achieved that score down under?!
Posted 10:51 24th November 2010
Andrew Kenneally says...
I think the key man could well be Mitchell Johnson. If he comes good, he could be taking wickets all over the place & England in big trouble; if not Australia could really struggle to take wickets. Right now the latter looks the more likely call, also Aus if things go against them really look like as a team they could fall into disarray.
Posted 10:21 24th November 2010
Loz Finn says...
Its going to be hard to call, yes close and saying that you would have to go for the home side. I would go for a 2-1 Aussies !! but i have been known to be wrong !!!!!
Posted 07:45 24th November 2010
Mark Greville says...
Why do the English hold back all the time? the Aussies are always full of it and in your face about how good they are. well if you ask me, we should be shouting from the roof tops about how we are going to stuff them 5-0. cant imagine they will win one of the tests let alone two, like most of your pundits think. COME ON ENGLAN!
Posted 07:37 24th November 2010
Adam Whiteley says...
i dont care what anyone says, and inparticular Kai Everill. i see you were quick to mention england loosing just the 2 games, where is the mention of australia only just recently breaking one of the most hideous loosing streaks in there history? not so quck to mention that were you? why mention 2 games that england have lost when australia have lost so much more? face facts mate, in terms of where these 2 teams are right now, with momentum and results behind them, england are so far ahead its not even funny, but hey, ill be the first to hold my hands up and say i got it wrong if england loose. but right now, at this moment, england are the better outfit, its not getting carried away as you put it, its called being realistic and confident on current form, england look a better bet than australia.
Posted 17:45 23rd November 2010
Karl Hartley says...
I think we have an excellent chance of winning the series. We got an excellent squad, with strong bowlers, a batting wicketkeeper. I'm not entirely convinced by the power of our batting, too many times we had Prior, Broad and Swann bailing us out of a really bad situation. I fear this may happen again. The Aussie's are definately there for the taking but what they lack in world class ability they will be sure to retain with their street fighting aggressive desire to win. Should put cricket back in a great light this contest, unlike the summer shambles.
Posted 17:30 23rd November 2010
Beebeck Filth says...
Australian side might be out of form and under-pressure, but that's when they come back with all guns blazing... They are a very capable side and if the POMS try to write them off, that will be the biggest mistake they have ever made.. I think it will go 4-0 for Australia...
Posted 17:14 23rd November 2010
Nigel Harris says...
For the 1st in almost 2 decades we go into an ashes series in the auusies back yard as favourites on current form , we have a stronger deeper in depth batting line up and a by far better all round bowling attack but the aussies have home field advantage so that persuades me say it wont be a one-sided contest but a tight battel for the little urn that i fully expect england to come out on top. In the last home ashes series the aussies was winning most of games but lost out dramatically the odd session or 2 leaving england victorious and i see something similar this time too, but i predict a 2-1 win to england.
Posted 16:36 23rd November 2010
Kai Everill says...
3-1!we are the greatest team out there at the moment???does that not include losing to bangledesh in the one day series and losing to Pakistan at the Oval?here we go again everyone is getting carried away with England!(who last year by the way could only just beat Australia at home 2-1) When the actual cricket is played, FOR REAL, in Australia, where we have possible the worst record in winning test matches in history.we are going to find it very tough and will be very lucky to draw the series 2-2!! I so want England to win but having watched England play over the last 20 years i am not going to start kidding myself into believing England are going to walk it and are the greatest team out there...because it will end up being the same result as always 3 or 4 - 1 to Australia!!!!
Posted 16:26 23rd November 2010
England must go in for the kill and finish off Australia in Ricky Ponting's absence, says Nasser Hussain.
Mitchell Johnson and the drop-in strip are the only real concerns for England at the MCG, says Mike Atherton.
Bumble says a heavy schedule is damaging one-day cricket and calls for a limited-overs league.
England's post-Ashes dip is down to tired minds and problems with the batting order, says Bob Willis.
The Ashes Panel pay tribute to sky-high England and back the Ashes winners to fly further up the rankings.