Leg-spin bowling legend Shane Warne says England are not the favourites ahead of the forthcoming Ashes and will "struggle to take 20 wickets".
Warne played 36 of his 145 Test match career against England (won 24, drawn 5, lost 7) helping Australia to win the Ashes Series on no fewer than seven occasions, losing just once - in 2005.
Many people in England are expecting the current holders, England, to return home victorious early next year. Warne disagrees:
"I don’t think they [England] are favourites, they haven’t won in Australia for 25 years.
"They have to play to the best of their ability and Australia have to play poorly."
"England look a strong team, but I still think they will struggle to take 20 wickets."
Despite England's strong performances in the warm-up matches and the Australia line-up struggling to find their best form Warne doesn't expect that to have a major bearing on the series:
"Ashes cricket brings out the best in everyone, I think the Aussies will win by one Test."
'Hauritz could be suprise package'
Those most under scrutiny in the hosts team appear to be spinner Nathan Hauritz with pressure seemingly on his place in the Test side
"Hauritz is number one spinner and he deserves first chance." Warne insisted.
"I think he could be Australia's surprise package - just because no-one's expecting it."
Skipper, Ricky Ponting who already holds an unwanted record for Australia - the first captain in 119-years to preside over two Ashes defeats - is also under the microscope.
Warne apologised to the Aussie captain after criticising his field placings for Hauritz's bowling and the two are known to have had a few disagreements both on and off the field. However, Warne is backing Ponting to win back the Ashes and retain the captaincy:
"It’s a bit early to say it's his last series, it's early to say that about anyone’s career - let alone the Australian captain. Hopefully he has a big summer.
"As and when he does chose to go I think Michael Clarke will be the next Test captain."
There has been some upheaval in the Australia set-up prior to the Ashes, with Merv Hughes removed as a selector, replaced by Greg Chappel.
Warne was disappointed to see his former teammate go from the selctor's panel but, as yet, has no plans to pursue a career as a selector himself:
"It was disappointing to lose a bowler [Hughes] from the selection panel.
"Could I be a selector? Maybe down the track but not right now."
Warne will remain a spectator, at least for this series but already knows who he'll be keeping an eye on as the men who could affect the outcome of the:
"England's key players are [Andrew] Strauss, [Kevin] Pietersen and [Graeme] Swann.
"For the Aussies it's [Shane] Watson, [Michael] Clarke and [Mitchell] Johnson.
"I've already said I think Hauritz can be our surprise package. For England? I reckon Jonathan Trott could score a few runs."
Despite not taking part on the field this time around, Warne will be working hard off it. As well as commentating for Sky and Australia's Channel9, writing for The Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun he'll also be fronting his own prime time Australian TV show.
As well as his media commitments Warne also works hard with his charitable foundation The Shane Warne Foundation which helps underprivileged children and teenagers in Australia.
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