Former England skipper Nasser Hussain and legendary Aussie batsman Ricky Ponting agree that bowlers from both sides will have bragging rights during the course of The Ashes - starting with the first Test at Trent Bridge, Nottingham on Wednesday.
Discussing their views as part of Daily Mail's coverage of the series, both veterans agreed that pace and spin can combine to challenge batsmen. "They (Australia) will have to play at their absolute best but, unusually, our bowling's our strength going in. I'm expecting big things from our bowlers," said Ponting who retired last year. "A lot of it will come down to tosses and conditions." (Also read: Haddin wants to end the Ashes hurt)
Hussain also lent credibility to the Aussie challenge. "Australia are not the side they used to be but I'm not convinced they're as bad as everyone's making out," he said, adding though that James Anderson may well be used as a lethal weapon against the touring party. "When the ball moves around, Jimmy Anderson can be unplayable. The other problem for Australia is if it starts flat, it will eventually turn, and they haven't played spin well."
Another former England great - David Lloyd, who was also part of the discussion, agreed that spin can be an effective weapon to use against the Aussie batsmen. "Graeme Swann is the key for me. When you're the home team you try to ask your groundsmen for what you want from pitches, but in my time we had no chance," he said. (Suggested read: England wary of hyper surrounding Ashes)
Ponting however said that while Swann needs to be respected, Australian batsmen would have learnt to negotiate turn after coming from India. "Yes they should, but in the last series here our batters played him pretty well. There should be no excuses for this group considering where they've just come from. India has the toughest spinning conditions in the world, so if they didn't learn about facing spin on those tracks they never will," he said when asked if Aussies should fear Swann.
For the Australians, Shane Watson has been in fine form in the tour matches and they can expect him to continue firing from the top. England on the other hand, will look to make the most of early reverse swing under dry conditions to stunt starts. "I think with it being dry, that will complement England's reverse swing, because they've got bowlers who are good at that as well," said Lloyd. (In pics: England players get down to training)
A lot though would depend on the two skippers with both Michael Clarke and Alastair Cook looking to prove their mettle by subjugating each other's' team.