STEVE HARMISON AND DEAN JONES HAVE THEIR SAY...
Australia (maybe), says Dean Jones
The big problem for Australia is confidence. If they get beaten in India and lose a couple of series there will be big question marks. There will be uncertainty about Matt Renshaw and Peter Handscomb, especially if they get rolled over by Ravi Ashwin and co, although Usman Khawaja is an underrated player. I think England will be marginal favourites. Their batting is pretty strong, their bowling is good at executing plans. Their biggest problem is they need the ball to move around. We have been playing on flat pitches the last four or five years and the Kookaburra ball is not swinging and that is allowing players like Steve Smith to get back and across and whip balls from off stump through midwicket and get away with it.
Josh Hazlewood is Australia’s best bowler, but Mitchell Starc needs it to swing as well and Nathan Lyon hasn’t been bowling as well. I wouldn’t flick them off the page yet but there is a lot more stability in England’s core group. I don’t think there is a lot of depth in Australia’s bowling. If something went wrong with Hazlewood or Starc we look a little bit bare. And yes, Davey Warner has had a great summer but look how easily the South Africans went through the batting when the ball did a little bit. They did a lot better against Pakistan but a player like Handscomb kept coming in at 200 for 3. I’d have loved that at No.5. The test will be when he has to come in at 50 for 3. And our tail isn’t great either. Matthew Wade hasn’t got a run. There’s still a lot of work to be done.
England, says Steve Harmison
England have got a great chance. The team are becoming more established, and they are quite a settled unit. It will be interesting to see how James Anderson and Stuart Broad go this summer as having them fit is vital. They are the key to winning the Ashes. And Mark Wood. They must find a way to get him fit so he can play five Ashes Tests. With Wood, Anderson and Broad, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali that is a pretty formidable five-man attack. Alastair Cook’s batting is massive. He has such mental strength, I can see him having an amazing series like in 2010/11. Keaton Jennings and Haseeb Hameed are relatively unknown but they have a whole summer to bed in, and if they are in the side for the first Ashes Test that is good: that means they have been making runs and Joe Root can bat at No.4. That is his best spot, especially if he is captain. There will be scars from the last trip. The key will be to start well at the Gabba – and I know all about that! But I think England, to a man, have more natural talent than Australia. There are still some uncertainties about some of them. If they can keep David Warner quiet they can retain the urn.
Results from last month's debate: Is the influx of South African cricketers to the county game a good thing?