Spinning great says England’s chances hinge on mercurial batsman.
Despite trouncing New Zealand in their two Test match series on home soil, Shane Warne predicts Australia will win the Ashes if Kevin Pietersen remains injured.
Pietersen, who is recovering from knee surgery, batted alongside his English teammates in the nets at Lords in preparation for the Three Lions’ one-day series against New Zealand.
Despite nothing having the powerful middle-order player, England did not need him in their recent whitewash against the Kiwis.
The home side’s attack often restricted the visitors totals to manageable ones, with only two centuries scored, one by Joe Root and another by skipper Alastair Cook.
But Warne, who captained Pietersen at Hampshire and is a close friend of the South African-born star, said Australia will win if he is not declared fit in time for the first Test at Trent Bridge in July.
“If Kevin Pietersen’s not available for the Ashes I think Australia will win, I think he’s that big a player for the England team,” Warne said.
“Everyone feeds off him. He’s such a destructive player, he can come out and get some low scores, but he’s such a destructive player.
“If Kevin Pietersen plays then I still think Australia can come out and surprise England but I think if he’s unavailable for the Ashes, which we don’t want, we want him to be playing, everybody does as a cricket lover, if he’s not playing for England then Australia will win.”
Despite his confidence, the best spinner the game has seen, admitted his countrymen have an uphill battle if recent form is anything to go by.
“England are definitely favourites,” Warne said.
“They’ve been playing some excellent cricket, and they’re well led by Alastair Cook.
“But I really believe Australia have a squad, if they pick the right players and they perform then, I think the people who are out there writing them off could really be surprised.”