Steve Waugh says England aren’t as strong as they claim to be and their top order is ripe to be exposed by Australia’s young fast-bowling attack.
And he was backed up by more fighting words from fiery pace bowler Peter Siddle, who said England were weak “for 100 years” before their landmark Ashes victory in 2005,
Former Test captain Waugh attended the announcement of Australia’s touring Ashes squad in Sydney on Wednesday with another past skipper, Mark Taylor.
Waugh has no doubt Australia’s young fast-bowling unit can take 20 wickets and, while England are solid, he feels they rely too much on a few stars.
“They’ve been hot and cold over the last 12 months,” Waugh said of England.
“Their batting has had a lot of collapses, so that suggests that they’re a bit fragile at times and they rely a lot on (James) Anderson and (Graeme) Swann in the bowling department. I guess the pressure might be on Alistair Cook, it’s his first Ashes series as captain.
“But both sides have chinks in their armour and I think both sides probably think they can win. The Ashes is always pretty fiercely contested and I expect this to be a very close series.”
Past and present Australian cricketers seem to agree that the country’s current crop of pace bowlers holds the key to winning the series.
Mitchell Johnson would have brought the experience of 51 Test matches to the touring squad, but former Australia captain Mark Taylor agrees with the selectors’ decision to leave Johnson out of the touring squad.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan will join Fox Sports for our coverage of the Ashes. Watch the whole series, starting with the first Test on July 10, LIVE and in HIGH DEFINITION on Fox Sports.
Taylor is far more impressed with the skills of Australia’s up-and-coming pacemen who will be travelling to England.
“Johnson’s bowling won’t be as well suited to England as a young Jackson Bird or Mitchell Starc or (James) Pattinson, who can actually swing the ball,” Taylor said.
“I think you’ve got to move the ball a little bit in the air over there and I like the bowlers they have picked. Ryan Harris is another who can bowl at good pace, but also move the ball in the air.”
Bird, who has played just two Test matches, said the competition in the bowling department for starting places was going to be tough, but that’s exactly how it should be. He also paid tribute to Peter Siddle, who he regards as the leader of their bowling unit.
Siddle himself hit back at English insults of Australia’s Ashes squad by saying their oldest rivals have a century of failure to make up for.
The press conference at Sydney’s historic Mint building was barely minutes old when the first plummy-toned bouncer was bowled by a BBC envoy asserting it would be the weakest ever Australian Ashes party sent to England.
“These guys will need name tags when they come through Heathrow,” journalist Nick Bryant later quipped in an interview.
Bryant was good-naturedly playing the villain but his sentiments were later picked up by many more in England after they had perused the Aussie squad over marmalade toast and tea.
English cricket writers predicted a “convincing English victory”.
With Waugh visibly bristling, Siddle admitted such talk fired his team up.
“They like to have a bit of a chirp about it but when you look back, they’re saying we’re a bit weak now but they’ve been weak for 100 years when we’ve dominated series,” Siddle said.
“They’re the team that’s favourite at the moment and fair enough. They’ve performed well to gain that right, especially at home.
“We’ll go as the underdogs no doubt but we’re going over to win. That’s how Australian cricket plays.”
Derisory tweets posted recently about Australia’s 4-0 loss to India by the likes of former English captain Michael Vaughan and bowler Matthew Hoggard didn’t escape Michael Clarke, either. His claims to not be worried didn’t ring entirely true.
“The hunger in this team is such we don’t need motivation from other people,” Clarke said. “I think every single player in this squad has a lot of hunger. We know how important the series is.”
Siddle says the best way to respond is with a victory early in the series.
“If we go over and win the first two Test matches, everyone will forget about us and it will all be back on them,” Siddle said.