Clarke take note: England has some weak points for Ashes
Will Australia's ''worst ever squad'' come close to reclaiming the Ashes? (AAP Image/Paul Miller)
When Australia’s cricketers step off the plane at Heathrow they shouldn’t do so with a sense of impending doom hanging over them.
The old enemy has painted itself as a side primed and ready to retain the Ashes – about to produce a performance that will send Australian cricket into a spiral of panic and shame.
Yes, Australia’s top order might have more holes than a golf course, but England has some potential weak points that haven’t received as much attention as they should have.
Their first choice top seven (containing four players born in South Africa) will have two frailties the Aussie bowlers need to exploit if they’re to be competitive.
Durban-born opener Nick Compton has played just seven Tests while 22-year-old Joe Root from Yorkshire has four Tests under his belt.
They average 40 and 30.16 respectively and although they’ve both shown signs of promise the cauldron like atmosphere of an Ashes series will be a monumental test.
Root made 73 on debut against India in Nagpur in December. He has since gone on to record a series of starts without capitalising.
Compton scored two hundreds in the series against the Black Caps in New Zealand and produced another half century in India.
Still, it’s two players in England’s top six who have 11 Tests between them.
Kevin Pietersen, recovering a knee injury suffered in New Zealand, is expected to be fit for the first Test, but will have little to no cricket under his belt before the first ball is bowled.
The right-hander has just earned the ire of sections of the English press again by tweeting a photo of himself swimming in a pool on a sun-soaked day in Dubai as his team-mates were getting ready to do battle with New Zealand at Lord’s.
If, for some reason, Pietersen isn’t fit, Jonny Bairstow would be the likely replacement.
The 23-year-old has played six Tests and averages just 25.62.
It means England is just one injury away from having a line-up containing three batsmen in their top six who have a combined total of 17 Tests experience and all with modest averages.
Australia has named a squad packed to the brim with pacemen capable of humbling the best batsmen in the world let alone those short on experience, but as captain Michael Clarke reminded his fellow willow wielders this week, the bowlers need to have something to defend.
Chris Rogers must play in the first game at Trent Bridge.
There is no point taking a 35-year-old on an Ashes tour if you’re not going to throw him into the fire.
That would be a tough call for Ed Cowan to swallow, but selecting Rogers and not playing him makes little to no sense.
The other question is whether to play Usman Khawaja or James Faulkner with the latter giving Clarke three pacemen (James Pattinson, Peter Siddle and Mitch Starc), one spinner (Nathan Lyon), and two medium pacers (Shane Watson and James Faulkner) to call on.
It would leave Australia with a long tail with Haddin returning and Starc and Pattinson always a danger.
A grim picture has been painted before the departure of the side.
Perhaps, it’s a case of prepare for the worst and hope for the best. A sort of protection mechanism for fans who have witnessed one of the longest re-builds in the history of the game.
In theory, there’s plenty to be excited about (if you can manage to put the horror of India out of your mind), but what happens in practice remains to be seen.
You can follow Luke Doherty on Twitter @Luke_Doherty and on Sky News Australia.