Three Lions say they are ready to retain the urn yet again.
England arrived Friday for a high stakes tour of Australia with Alastair Cook’s team gunning for a fourth successive Ashes series win and Michael Clarke’s men desperate to avoid another embarrassing loss.
They touched down in Perth for the five-Test tour barely two months after wrapping up a 3-0 home series win over Australia, and they will once again look to capitalise on their opponent’s fragile batting.
Australia chopped and changed batsmen and their position in the order throughout the last campaign and they paid the price, with coach Darren Lehmann promising more stability this time round.
England spinner Graeme Swann said on arrival that the team was “always confident”.
“If we play our good cricket, then it should be a great series. Can’t wait to get cracking,” he said
But Cook denied England will be complacent after being dominant against their arch-rivals for so long, particularly with an anticipated hostile reception expected from the home fans.
“Complacency — that’s not a problem,” he said before boarding the plane in London on Wednesday, minus star all-rounder Kevin Pietersen who was granted compassionate leave following the death of a friend.
He is expected to join up with the 17-man squad on Sunday.
“We have a chance to win four Ashes series in a row for the first time since 1890. Everyone is excited by that and is desperate to do that,” added Cook.
“Clearly, top-order runs in Australia are vitally important and we saw last time when we went there how big runs make a massive difference and set the game up.”
England get their tour underway against Western Australia on October 31 ahead of the first Test at the Gabba in Brisbane starting November 21. This is followed by Tests in Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne and Sydney.
British bookmakers William Hill have England at 10/11 favourites for the series with Australia 13/8 and 9/2 the draw.
“When you have won the last three series, and the last one was only two months ago, it is fair if people say we are favourites,” said Cook.
“This summer was the first time we had gone into an Ashes series as favourites but winning in Australia is no mean feat, that’s the challenge we have got in front of us.”
The stakes for Australia are high with Mickey Arthur, who was sacked as coach ahead of the last Ashes campaign, warning Cricket Australia heavyweights James Sutherland, Pat Howard and even Test captain Michael Clarke could lose their jobs if England wins.
“If they lose this Test series there is going to be a lot of questions asked,” he told Fairfax Media on Thursday.
“I think James Sutherland, I think (high performance chief) Pat Howard, I think Michael Clarke … I think some serious heads could roll if Australia don’t win this Test series.”
Clarke is not seriously under threat and is set for a return from a chronic back injury in what we would be a timely boost for Australia.
The star batsman was ruled out of Australia’s one-day tour of India this month and feared he could miss the first Test.
Fast bowler James Pattinson is expected to miss Brisbane with a back stress fracture, heaping more pressure on the likes of pacemen Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris.
Australia’s fast bowling stocks are already depleted with Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins both expected to miss the entire Ashes with back injuries and Jackson Bird also under a cloud.
But they have been boosted by Craig McDermott returning to the fold as bowling coach with his goal being to have up to six quicks hitting their peak at the same time.
Seamer James Anderson, now second only to Ian Botham in England’s list of all-time leading Test wicket-takers, leads the England attack.