Shane Warne has delivered a sobering verdict on Australia’s Ashes preparations, ripping into Tim Paine’s captaincy and tipping England to be more competitive than many other judges expect.
Warne told Fox Cricket’s World Cup Live show that there are “a lot of gaps” in Australia’s Test side and that the hosts lacked a fear factor, while also criticising several key figures in the team.
Warne opted for Marcus Harris over Usman Khawaja to open the batting with David Warner but said neither choice gave him confidence.
“When you think back to Australia and think back to Ashes series in Australia, England have been very, very poor for a long time when they come to Australia. But I just look at the Australian side and there’s a lot of gaps,” Warne said.
“Our fast bowlers – Pat Cummins looks short of a gallop and we know he’s going to come good because he’s world class. But Starc’s nowhere, (Josh) Hazlewood’s bowling well.
“But apart from that, we’ve got (David) Warner not making a run. Who’s he going to open with? (Marnus) Labuschagne and (Steve) Smith at three and four, but who’s going to bat (at) five? (Cameron) Green is still a young player that looks pretty good. Paine, he’s had a shocker the last couple of years as captain, tactically he’s been very poor, lost the last two series and can’t make a run.
“Our side’s not as great, this ‘almighty Australia’.
“But here’s the big thing: No one fears Australia anymore. Coming to Australia, everyone used to go ‘oh we’re going to have to be at our best to even compete’. Now they just believe they can beat Australia – every side.”
Warne said Travis Head should be given an opportunity at five while Harris was preferred over Khawaja, the leading run-scorer in the Sheffield Shield so far with two centuries in three matches.
“They (Harris and Khawaja) are both ‘we hope they do okay’ if they go with Khawaja or Harris … They should be better than what they are, they’re just not scoring the runs they should be,” Warne said.
“But it’s got to be one of those guys, whoever’s getting the form. Khawaja has shown a bit of early form, but it’s about form at the right time. So if Harris comes good with a couple of hundreds just before the first Test, he might get the nod.”
Australia are strong favourites to win but Warne said England should not be underestimated.
“I look at England and I think their batting looks really weak. But Ben Stokes, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, (Jos) Buttler has this form and suddenly they’re looking pretty good,” Warne said.
“Their bowlers, (Jimmy) Anderson and (Stuart) Broad haven’t done that well here in Australia, but they’ll bowl well enough. It’s who’s going to be with them … What spinner? Jack Leach with the old Kookaburra ball?
“You’d say Australia are favourites, but given their recent form in the last few years here in Australia – we were been beaten by India’s C-team last year and we were really poor tactically – I think it’s going to be very, very close. I think it’ll be a good Ashes series.”
Meanwhile Mark Waugh told Fox Cricket England could cause problems.
“I can see England being competitive in a few Tests – maybe the Adelaide Test where it’s going to swing with the pink ball, so I think they’re a threat there. (But) I don’t think their spin’s a threat at all,” Waugh said. “Australia should win.”