Warne - Aussies still favourites
Shane Warne admits Australia will feel the loss of Brett Lee but is still backing them to retain the Ashes.
Last Updated: 06/07/09 11:00pm
Shane Warne remains confident Australia will retain the Ashes, despite the loss of Brett Lee for the series opener.
Warne, the former Australia leg-spinner, admits Lee's absence in Cardiff due to an abdominal strain is a major blow for the tourists.
"It's a big blow for Australia. He was in my starting XI. Him and Mitchell Johnson with the new ball was quite exciting," said Warne.
"At 90mph-plus, with both swinging the ball, it was an exciting prospect for Australia.
"Brett had waited a long time to get back after being injured. But Australia are lucky because they have Stuart Clarke and Ben Hilfenhaus.
"They have good back-up but it's a shame because Brett was starting to find some form."
Warne believes Australia start the Ashes series as favourites after successfully emerging from a difficult spell.
"Australia have been through a transitional period and have found some new players who have picked up some Test experience," he added.
"Beating South Africa in South Africa is not that easy to do so for that group the transitional period is over.
"I think they'll do exceptionally well over here. Both sides' batting will be okay, the issues will be their starting XI and how to take 20 wickets.
"There's not much to choose between them but if you had to put your house on someone you'd have to say Australia.
"Even England fans must think Australia are favourites because England haven't actually played that well.
"Apart from the West Indies series over here they haven't actually played that well - and that's trying to find a positive.
"Everyone talks about the 2005 Ashes but there was another one after that which Australia won 5-0 and England should be embarrassed by that.
"If England play well they have a chance to win and will feel comfortable at home, but Australia are still favourites."