September 30, 2010

Warne foresees close Ashes battle in Australia


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The Ashes 2010-11 is still more than seven weeks away but it’s the topic of discussion at many forums and the experts are not shy of expressing themselves as the much talked about battle draws nearer.

Shane Warne, having played the key role in deciding the fate of quite a few Ashes series in favour of Australia, reckons that Australia would be more vulnerable on home soil than they have been in a generation. He, however, still predicted a 2-1 winning scoreline for the hosts.

"Given that there's not much between the two teams, you think the next thing to weigh up are the Australian conditions. Australia have only lost a couple of series in 20 years in Australia,” he pointed out.

"With Australia in transition, they are not playing as well as they can, while England are playing pretty well and with a settled squad, so I think that mix makes for a good series. England were embarrassed last time in Australia - they lost 5-0, so they want to try and put that right, but it's a tough ask. They need Graeme Swann to take 30 wickets in the series, and if he does that, they can probably win," Warne added.

If the greatest spin bowler of all time reckons that Swann has a chance of picking 30 wickets in five Tests then it certainly means something. The Australians would obviously be not taking the off-spinner lightly who has improved in leaps and bounds over the last couple of years.

Warne has also pinned great hopes on his former Hampshire teammate, Chris Tremlett, who has had temperamental problems in the past.

"I captained him for a while at Hampshire but I think the thing with Tremlett is his body language. He needs to improve that because at times he can appear a bit soft. But he's got all the ability in the world, and he could easily be the No. 1 bowler in the world if it all clicks. If he could bring his net form out into the middle, and continue working on his body language, he could really be a strength for England," the champion leg-spinner thought.

Warne was convinced that Australia were already looking beyond the two-Test series against India starting in Mohali on October 1 and their sights fixed firmly on reclaiming the Ashes on home soil.

"Most of the time that India and Australia play it would be over four Tests, but leading up to the Ashes it's a good thing because they need Tests, not heaps of one-dayers and Twenty20s, They want to try and win every series that they play, because that's what sportsmen do, but if they lose they lose, and they'll start their focus back in on the Ashes," he commented.

Warne didn’t think that the Australians would be all that concerned over the ICC rankings as they would be falling behind England for the first time since 2003 if they lose the two-Test series against India.

"I don't think it'll have any bearing on the outcome of the series, or the way they prepare for the series. It's just a number. If you're winning Test matches you're at the top, if you're not winning Test matches, you'll slide down. Australia will be disappointed if they lose the series and drop down the rankings, but hopefully they'll win there, and hopefully they'll win the Ashes too,” he asserted.


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