SYDNEY Former test pace bowler Jason Gillespie has warned his compatriots that England will be ready for back-to-back Ashes series this year and for Australia to wrest back the famous urn will be a daunting task.
Gillespie, who took 259 wickets in 71 tests between 1996 and 2005, is well-placed to comment on the strength of the English game given he is currently coach of the Yorkshire county side.
"They are incredibly confident over here but they deserve to start favourites, England, no doubt about it," Gillespie told the Australian newspaper on Saturday.
"I think potentially they could underestimate our bowling. I've been speaking about it quite regularly over here and saying, 'Don't underestimate the strength of Australia's pace bowling attack'.
"But England won't underestimate Australia. They're too clever for that and I know the England management has already been doing a lot of research.
"They've been planning and researching for a long time. I've got no doubt they'll be wary."
Australia have brought on a band of young seamers ready to take on their arch-rivals home and away with the likes of James Pattinson, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Jackson Bird causing much excitement.
Gillespie was quick to remind his countrymen that the English bowling unit so crucial to the 3-1 victory in the last Ashes series remained intact and ready to confront an Australian batting order without the retired Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey.
"England's bowling is very good at the moment," he said. "Coming up against the Australian batting order, they will rightly feel they're in the game. They feel they can put Australia under pressure and can have Michael Clarke coming in consistently very early, at two or three down for not very many.
"James Anderson is one of the best going around. He'll lead the attack, (Steve) Finn is a very good bowler, (Tim) Bresnan is a very good bowler, (Stuart) Broad has had a bit of an up-and-down time but he's also a very good bowler.
"Graeme Swann is one of the best spin bowlers in the world, if not the number one. Their batting is strong and they've got the best wicketkeeper-batsman in the world (Matt Prior) so they're in a good place."
Gillespie expressed sympathy with Cricket Australia's much-maligned rotation policy, although he conceded they could have sold it to the public better.
The 37-year-old also had a great deal of time for Nathan Lyon, who has come under continual fire since emerging as Australia's top test spin bowler in the wake of the 2010-11 Ashes debacle.
"To me Nathan Lyon is a wonderful bowler, the fastest finger spinner in Australian history to get 50 Test wickets," he said.
"He's had some ups and downs but he's certainly someone I'd like to see Australia persevere with because I think he's just got a little bit of (something) about him as well.
"He has attitude. I just think he has something about him as an Australian cricketer."
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Amlan Chakraborty)