Aussies favourites for Ashes 2005

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> It's cricket's oldest and most famous rivalry and this time it features the two teams ranked first and second in the ICC Test rankings.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:54 IST
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It's cricket's oldest and most famous rivalry and this time it features the two teams ranked first and second in the ICC Test rankings. And though Australia are bidding to win their ninth Ashes series in a row, England have done enough over the last year to prove to the fans that a fifth day Ashes ticket is no longer useless. Head to head Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden are the two best openers in Test cricket right now. Up against Andrew Strauss and Marcus Trescothick in this department, it's probably 'even Stevens'. Punter Ponting gambling on him winning his first Ashes series as captain is up against Michael Vaughan, the man who single handedly kept Australia at bay in the last Ashes. In this one it's advantage Ponting. Adam Gilchrist is the best all rounder in the world right now. Up against a genuine all-rounder in Flintoff, this battle is too close to call. Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee vs Steve Harmison and Matthew Hoggard is a battle where Australia probably have a slight edge. But Shane Warne against Ashley Giles is a contest where it tilts totally in favour of Australia. Keen contest Warne is 17 wickets shy of taking 600 test wickets, but McGrath will get to his milestone first. He's on 499 test wickets. "Well, thanks for that (being reminded that he could become Glenn McGrath's 500th test victim). Well, he opens the bowling and I open the batting, so we'll see what happens. You know, there has been a mass of media attention for everything, for his 500th wicket and the start of the series and stuff, but we're not going to get drawn into things that happen outside of the game, just hopefully when we play the game we can do well," said Trescothick. The shared NatWest tri-series title with England and shades of vulnerability in losses to England and even Bangladesh have the fans believing that a close contest is on the cards. "We've always prepared for every match the same way - expecting the opposition to be at the top of their game, and to give us a run for our money, and there is nothing different about this one. If it pans out that way then it's great for the spectators. Our focus is on playing the way we want to play, and executing our plans, so that hopefully we can get the desired result," said Gilchrist. Clash of the Titans The two sides have had an acrimonious past and the big talking Glenn McGrath insists that the world champions will win 5-0. "Oh, I don't think it will be 5-0. I think every test will have a result, but we'll just sneak it 3-2," said Geraint Jones, wicket keeper, England. That's not how its turned out in the last eight Ashes series which Australia won so comprehensively. England could not even deny Steve Waugh a hobbling hundred in the 2001 series. England's Ashes resistance Down Under in 2003 lasted 11 days, in fact, it all went awry on Day 1 when Simon Jones tore his knee ligaments. Hopefully this time England's memories will be different. Maybe they won't just be posing with the Ashes replica trophy, but they will actually get to hold it aloft.

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