'Eng have Ashes trump card'
London - Shane Warne believes England will travel to Australia with their "best-ever" chance of winning the Ashes 'Down Under' in more than 20 years.
And Warne, currently playing in a poker tournament in Las Vegas, believes England have a "trump" card in off-spinner Graeme Swann.
England hold the Ashes after a 2-1 series win on home soil last year but they have not won a Test campaign in Australia since Mike Gatting's men triumphed on their victorious 1986/87 tour.
But former Australia leg-spinner Warne, one of cricket's greatest bowlers, reckons England will run the hosts close when the latest edition of the world's oldest Test rivalry starts in Brisbane in November.
"They can challenge us for the first time since 1986/87," Warne told several British newspapers in interviews published here on Wednesday.
"It will be a good series. I think it'll be close.
"Our home record over the last few years hasn't been as strong. They lost to South Africa and drew with India.
"But it's still a tough ask to win in Australia."
Indeed the only two touring side to have won Test series in Australia during the last 20 years were the West Indies in 1992/93 and South Africa in 2008/09.
England though appear to have lost the 'fear factor' of playing Australia so evident when the likes of Warne and retired paceman Glenn McGrath were routinely ripping through their order during the 1990s and early 2000s.
They currently have bragging rights over Australia in all three international formats, having won the Ashes before beating their arch-rivals in the World Twenty20 final in Barbados in May and then taking the recent five-match home one-day series 3-2.
"England played outstanding cricket in the recent one-day series," the 40-year-old Warne said. "It has been a long time since they had the edge on us in all forms of the game.
"Their selectors and (coach) Andy Flower must take credit for not discarding players like they have in the past. They are starting to gel."
Turning to Swann, an admiring Warne added: "He is the most improved cricketer. He mixes his pace, he's not afraid to be hit, he's learning all the time in difficult conditions.
"As a spinner, he needs to know how to take wickets at the crucial times.
"There are times to defend and attack. But, if in doubt, attack and that's what I like about him.
"His special ability is his quicker delivery - he spins it. That's rare for a spin bowler. Generally, the slower you bowl, the more you spin it.
"But Swann can turn it when he bowls faster. He is going to be a trump."