November 15, 2017 / 3:40 AM / 3 days ago

Ponting predicts Ashes stroll for Australia

(Reuters) - Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting says England’s only hope of winning a test in the upcoming Ashes series is the day/night match in Adelaide and has predicted a 4-0 victory for the hosts.

FILE PHOTO - Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting warms up ahead of Surrey's County Cricket match against Yorkshire at Headingley, northern England, June 21, 2013. Ponting announced on Thursday that he would retire from all forms of the game in October. REUTERS/Phil Noble

Ponting savaged England’s batting order and said the absence of all-rounder Ben Stokes, along with injuries to their fast bowling stocks, would play into Australia’s hands.

His comments come after fierce criticism of the Australia batting line-up from former England greats Ian Botham and Graeme Swann.

“I’ve been a bit more outward than normal about this one because I honestly think that Australia will win really easily,” Ponting, who captained Australia in 77 tests, told Cricket Australia’s website.

”If you look through the current England team, they’re searching for an opener, they’re searching for a number three, Stokes might not be there, a couple of their quicks have gone down.

“I just think right now England have got more gaps and more cause for concern in not only in their 11 but in their entire squad, than what Australia have.”

England seamer Jake Ball is likely to miss the tourists’ final warmup ahead of the first Ashes test, beginning on Nov. 23 in Brisbane, after suffering an ankle ligament strain in the tour match at Adelaide Oval.

Their pace bowling stocks took a hit earlier this week when Steven Finn was ruled out of the tour with a knee injury and replaced by Tom Curran.

Ponting said England fast bowlers James Anderson and Stuart Broad were on a “steady decline” but maintaining a “reasonably high” level of performance, while Australia boasted a flourishing bowling line-up. The 42-year-old said England’s only chance of winning a match was the second test in Adelaide.

England won the last Ashes 3-2 on home soil but were humiliated 5-0 the last time they came to Australia for the series in 2013/14.

Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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