I've detected quiet optimism over England's Ashes chances: good luck with that

In Nathan Lyon Australia have a world class spinner

Toby Oliver

It's no surprise that when England arrive in Australia in November, they will be huge underdogs.

Despite Australia's recent struggles at home against India, England will still need a miracle to get close to them.

The fact is that England have not won a Test match in Australia for ten years. The last time was the last match in the famous 2010-11 series England won which was the culmination of years and years of work under Andy Flower.

That was a team that included the likes of Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen in their absolute prime.

Of course, they still have the legendary duo James Anderson and Stuart Broad, but they currently lack a world class spinner which they had in Graeme Swann.

Since then, England just haven't had the quality needed to trouble Australia. It's no secret that the key to winning in Australia is high quality pace and spin bowling and huge runs.

Despite the shambolic display of the recent Tests in India, I have sensed some quiet optimism around England's latest trip down under. Maybe it's because of the way the Aussies capitulated against India? Or the fact that Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne have scored all their runs in recent years?

I can't honestly justify a repeat performance of the India games for the Ashes. Tim Paine will be desperate to win.

Australia's pace bowlers struggled against India because they weren't rotated at all. In the Ashes in 2019, they used the likes of Peter Siddle and James Pattinson to help the ferocious trio of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazelwood and Mitchell Starc. If they rotate them properly this time, they will be so dangerous.

There is also they small problem of Nathan Lyon. He has been one of the best spinners in the world for ages. I really admire the way he puts in good performances so consistently. If England had a player like him, they would be so much better.

Despite all this, there is a glimmer of hope for England. They have made some changes since they last toured Australia. The biggest of those is the improvement of their pace bowlers. It will be the first tour down under for Jofra Archer and Mark Wood. It will be crucial for England that they both stay fit as Archer's elbow continues to be a major cause for concern and Wood has had his fair share of injury troubles.

A bowler I want England to use in Australia is Olly Stone, who really impressed me in his performance in the second Test against India. His pace was consistently high and he was very accurate too. They will also have the likes of Chris Woakes, Sam Curran and, of course, Ben Stokes to call on to bowl.

Spin is England's major problem. I would be amazed if Moeen Ali played Test cricket again and Dom Bess had been so inconsistent. They really are short of options, but Jack Leach would seem to be the best bet. He improved over the India series, but he is no Nathan Lyon.

In short, if England are going to win just one Test match in Australia, they will need Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope to produce the performances of their lives, Archer and Wood will have to bowl at close to 100 mph and Leach is going to have to take a leaf out of Axar Patel's book.

Good luck with that.