Aussie spin legend Shane Warne and English wicketkeeper-batsman Matt Prior argue the big issues. Starting, of course, with…
Are England going to spank Australia?
PRIOR: If we can win our fourth Ashes series in a row [after 2009, 2010-11 and 2013] we know we’d be making history. An England team hasn’t achieved that since the 19th century, so that is a huge motivation.
WARNE: No. I think Australia will win, for sure. The English are a hard team to beat but there’s still a few tough nuts on the Aussie side.
What will be the secret to success?
WARNE: England don’t fear Australia any more, so the first Test match is going to be absolutely crucial to the whole series. It’s important that Australia create some doubt in England’s mind as quickly as possible.
PRIOR: Fitness. We just did some fitness tests and most players came back with PBs in almost every facet of fitness. I have lost 9kg since the Ashes. I spend a lot of time cycling. We said we wanted to be the fittest England team ever to go to Australia and we are.
We don’t have a giant touchscreen like Sky Sports has, but can you identify the key battles?
PRIOR: I don’t like talking about individual players but I think Ryan Harris stood out as Australia’s key bowler in the summer. We will have to make sure we play him well this time around. Fortunately, we have excellent backroom staff to analyse opposition bowlers and batsman.
WARNE: There’s a lot of little battles, whether it be Watson vs Anderson or Pietersen vs Clark. Stuart Broad will obviously be coppered because he brings it on himself for the things he says. I mean, Stuart Broad is gonna absolutely cop it. On the Aussie side, if David Warner plays, he’ll probably be the villain again.
How big a part will sledging play in the series?
WARNE: I just think of it like WWE – it all adds to the entertainment. Slating can definitely work, but you have to pick your mark, get under their skin and never let it go. It can be as simple as a long lingering look with the intent of something. Rub them up the wrong way. If there’s no nibble, move on to the next guy. If the game wasn’t going the way I wanted it to, I’d pick a fight with the batsman just to fire myself up.
PRIOR: In the last Ashes down under, we embraced the hostility from the crowd. It’s important to laugh at yourself and not take any abuse seriously. If we start strongly, we’ll win the respect of the public – and they can soon turn on their own team.
The Ashes is live on Sky Sports from 21 November. Investec is the title sponsor of Test cricket in England; investec.co.uk/cricket