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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

Warne says Ashes 2017/18 will be close as England do not fear 'confused' Australia

Former leg-spinner from down under tucks into board's selection policy ahead of Gabba Test

Tim Paine last played a Test for Australia in 2010. Daniel Kalisz / Getty Images
Tim Paine last played a Test for Australia in 2010. Daniel Kalisz / Getty Images

Spin hero Shane Warne says Australia are in a state of "confusion" heading into the Ashes series, with England primed for a first Gabba Test boilover.

Even amid the massive distraction of the Ben Stokes assault saga, Warne believes it is the tourists who no longer hold any fears about an unsettled Australian cricket team.

The former Australia leg-spinner says Australia are in a shambles with wicketkeeper Tim Paine's surprise selection pointing to a lack of direction from selectors.

Paine, chosen for his first Test in seven years, and Shaun Marsh, 34, recalled to the Test side for the eighth time, were the controversial selections announced on Friday for next week's first Test in Brisbane.

Pundits say Australia's Gabba fortress, where the home side is unbeaten in almost 30 years, is now under threat from an England squad missing their best player all-rounder Stokes, back at home and under investigation over a nightclub brawl.

Shane Warne was a great player but his transgression from a few years earlier may have cost him his chance to lead Australia. Agencies
Shane Warne was a great player but his transgression from a few years earlier may have cost him his chance to lead Australia. Agencies

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"At the moment, where the biggest shift has come over the last few years is they don't fear Australia anymore," Warne said on Friday. "England no longer fear Australia and haven't for a long time and hence that's why they can beat Australia.

"England, I think at the moment, are just going along nicely. They're just doing their business.

"Australia look confused. They're picking wicketkeepers that aren't even keeping for their state.

"To me, I think England are in a better situation going into that first Test match than what Australia are."

Television commentating veteran Bill Lawry agreed with Warne that Australia is missing a Mitchell Johnston-styled intimidator, despite Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins capable of bowling fast.

"I think the big key to this Ashes series is Mitchell Johnson and he's not playing," Lawry said. "If I was an opening batsman I wouldn't be losing too much sleep facing the Australian pace attack as far as pace is concerned.

"They’re all good bowlers but they're not going to frighten you."

Former Test captain Michael Clarke said the Australian team was unsure about their playing style heading into the five-Test series.

Warne is predicting the Ashes series to be the hardest-fought and most dramatic since the 2005 campaign, which England famously won in a fifth-Test decider.

The leg-spinning great says both sides are weak because they rely too much on two players - Australia on David Warner and Steve Smith and England on Alastair Cook and Joe Root.

"It will get down to how those guys bat," Warne said.