England hot tip to win Ashes
Australian skipper Ricky Ponting points out something to newcomer Xavier Doherty. (Gallo)
Cape Town - England's cricket team will be desperate to lay the first blow on Thursday when the first of the five Ashes Test matches gets underway against Australia at the Gabba in Brisbane.
England captain, Andrew Strauss, and his team have an excellent chance to become the first England team in 24 years to trump the Aussies at home – a rare and difficult feat.
Australian cricket is in dire straits since losing the recent Test and one-day series in India. They also lost a limited overs series at home against Sri Lanka earlier this month.
As a result, there is ever increasing pressure on the home side's captain, Ricky Ponting, with questions becoming more urgent regarding his suitability to lead Aussie cricket.
England's preparation was almost ideal and all indications are that the English are going to break their drought in Australia.Key factors and aspects in the coming series are:The inexperienced Aussie bowling attack
, which must be giving Ponting sleepless nights. Mitchell Johnson (38 Tests) is his most experienced bowler, with Doug Bollinger (11 Tests) and Ben Hilfenhaus (13) the other two "senior" bowlers on whom Ponting will have to depend.
The Aussies may also have to rely on rookie left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty in the spin department – although his first class statistics of 84 wickets at an average of 48.26 don't exactly inspire confidence.
Australia is still struggling to cope with the retirement of legends like Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist and Glenn McGrath.
While the Aussies hope that Doherty will step up, England have fewer worries, with spinner Graeme Swann eyeing the world's top Test bowler spot with a good performance at the Gabba.
Swann is currently second on the International Cricket Board’s (ICB) ranking for Test bowlers. He could dethrone South Africa's Dale Steyn with an impressive performance at the Gabba.Things don't look much better for the Aussies' batsmen
, with vice-captain Michael Clarke still unsure whether he will be able to play due to a back injury.
The form of England's two former South African batsmen, Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott, could also be determining factors.
Over the past summer, Trott was his team's most stable batsman and Pietersen has the ability to smash any bowling attack.
But England will have to be careful that they don't become swept away with all the talk of a crisis in Australian ranks.
The visitors arrived in Brisbane in 2006 full of bravado after beating the Aussies in 2005 in England.
After a huge build-up to the first Test, and with English expectations sky high, the Aussies ended the first day on 346/3 and never looked back, defeating the tourists with a humiliating 5-0 series whitewash.