When England and Australia walk out at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff today it will be the start of an Ashes series that will be watched around the world. Australia whitewashed England in the last series between the sides, two years ago, but will feel they have a point to prove having lost to England in the memorable 2005 series. Those five Tests will be remembered in cricket folklore. And Shane Warne, a member of the vanquished Australia side four years ago, does not believe this series will be able to match it.
"I'm not sure that this summer will be able to scale the heights of four years ago. I'm not sure who is going to win this summer but they'll be hard pressed to make the series as dramatic," he said. "Even though we lost, the spirit and camaraderie between the players was incredible. It was great for the game of cricket and really captured the imagination." Warne, who is not be part of the tourists squad this summer having retired from the international game, thinks the series is too tight to call.
Australia will be considered favourites as they are ranked top in the International Cricket Council's world Test rankings. "The two teams are pretty evenly matched and there's not anything to choose between them," said Warne. "England have some really quality players and they played brilliantly in 2005. "But that was four years ago and a lot has changed since then. I can't choose between them but it should be one great summer."
One person willing to make a prediction is the England seamer Graham Onions, who could make his Ashes debut today. The Durham player was part of the England Lions squad that played the Australians in a warm-up last week, and said he saw weaknesses in their opponents. "If we give 100 per cent and stick together as a team then I think the Ashes will come back to England," he said. "Australia have got a bit of rebuilding to do. Playing against them last week I did feel these guys can be beaten."
Australia will be without the fast bowler Brett Lee, who has been ruled out of the first two Tests with a rib injury. @Email:email@example.com