Sydney — 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.
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," said Ponting, who captained Australia in 77 Tests.
"If you look through the current England team, they’re searching for an opener, they’re searching for a No3, 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 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 warm-up ahead of the first Ashes Test, beginning on November 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.
He 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.
At the same time Swann, a former England spinner, said the tourists must silence the baying home crowds if they were to stand any chance of getting on top of Australia.
"The thing you’ve got to do is stop the noise and the easy way to do that in Australia is to get on top of them," said Swann, adding that England’s senior players such as Alastair Cook and captain Joe Root would have to lead from the front.
"If you get on top of the team, they’ll quickly turn on their own but the hard bit is getting on top of them."