Former England wicket-keeper Alec Stewart believes that England have a strong chance of retaining the Ashes this winter, so long as they hit the ground running and leave Brisbane, where the first Test will be held, either ahead in the series or level.
Before that, they will have played three tour matches, a move which Stewart, who played 133 Tests for his country, thinks is the right way to go.
"You've got to prepare," he told CricketWorld.com. "The fact that they play three first-class matches leading into the first Test match, and then another game after the second Test to me makes sense because you're giving yourself an opportunity to prepare to make sure you hit the road running when you enter the GABBA on the 25th November.
"I believe it all revolves around the first Test match in Brisbane, to be honest," he added. "Brisbane is a bit of a stranglehold for the Australians, they've got a tremendous record against England in Brisbane and England havent' won there since 1986/7.
"If England can come out of Brisbane at worst still 0-0, meaning they haven't lost, then I think we'll keep the Ashes."
England named their 16-man squad for the five-match Test series yesterday (23rd September) and Stewart says there were few surprises and is happy with the selections made.
"It's possibly the easiest squad that's been picked in recent times, for the selectors," he said. "I have to say that 12 people picked themselves which is the 11 that played in the final Test against Pakistan, and Ian Bell. To me, Steven Davies picked himself on weight of performance in the One-Day Internationals.
"Tim Bresnan has been there or thereabouts all summer anyway so he was going to feature. The last quick bowling spot went to Chris Tremlett, which I'm very pleased to see. I think his style of bowling will suit the Australian pitches.
"Monty Panesar has bowled in Australia, had a little bit of success on what was a disappointing tour (in 2006/7), but has improved at Sussex, he seems to have taken his game to another level and therefore warranted selection."
Asked to pass judgment on wicket-keeper Davies, who now plys his trade at Stewart's former club Surrey, he had high praise for the former Worcestershire gloveman.
"He's a special, special talent," he said. "Now Matt Prior is in possession and quite rightly so because he's an outstanding cricketer himself but Steve Davies is an ambitious individual, he goes about his business in a very quiet way, but a very determined.
"I've said all along that there's a touch of Adam Gilchrist about his batting. He's good enough to push solely as a batsman within a Test side and his wicket-keeping is developing and improving all the time."
Stewart also had words of high praise for batsman Kevin Pietersen, who played for Surrey during a brief spell at the end of the season in a bid to find some form.
"He is quite outstanding, I'm a big fan of Kevin Pietersen," Stewart said. "He is England's best player, their most talented player and I expect him to have an excellent Ashes series.
"Having seen him now first hand, I can only speak in glowing terms of Pietersen because he was quite outstanding (during his spell at The Oval).
Stewart was talking to CricketWorld thanks to Sportingbet.com - In:play betting with Sportingbet.com takes cricket fans to the heart of the action. Bet live, minute by minute on the Ashes this winter with English Cricket's best bet at
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