You’re not part of the chorus of former England players tipping an easy win for England, are you?
Some people might be writing off the Australians but not me. I’ve never seen a bad Aussie side, played a bad Aussie side or played with a bad Aussie cricketer. Even the players who aren’t in the Test side come over here and have an impact. Any game against Australia is competitive, and this series will be that.

How do you think the warm-up matches will impact the sides coming into this week?
Well, the Ashes are never won in the week before. It’s been a bit of a farce here (in Essex, with the match losing its first class status mid-way through), but everyone’s had a run and been together. I think that’s been important for the Aussies, with the change of coach and all that’s been going on – I think time together as a squad has been good for them.

Clarke and Alastair Cook are both young captains and their team’s form batsmen – how do you see that match-up?
There are a lot of similarities in that they’re terrific players, but with captaincy they’re at different ends of the spectrum, Cook being more conventional and Clarke being very attacking. It will be an interesting balance to the series.

Who is the key for England?
I think Graeme Swann could have a huge bearing on the series. The forecast is for a dry summer from now on, which will bring the spinners into it. So with Swann, with his class, and turning it away from the Aussie left handers that could be a big advantage.

England have every right to be confident, but could this work against them?
England are right to take confidence into the series. They beat Australia easily in the Champions Trophy and are the form side, but they have to keep control of the expectations. They know there’s a lot of work to be done.

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