Kevin Pietersen reckons England’s mastery of reverse-swing will inspire the team to Ashes glory just as it did four years ago on home soil.
Pietersen, rejecting Australia great Shane Warne’s claim that England are a “one-man team” who cannot win without their batting star, said pace bowling held the key to England’s Ashes hopes.
In 2005 the ‘Fab Four’ of Andrew Flintoff, Stephen Harmison, Matthew Hoggard and Simon Jones undermined a strong Australia top-order, with much of their success down to the mastery of reverse swing.
Although, with Jones injured, Hoggard long since dropped and Harmison out of favour, only Flintoff out of that quartet is on course to start in next week’s first Test in Cardiff, Pietersen is backing the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad to cause Australia problems.
The current dry and hot conditions in England offer an environment conducive to reverse-swing and Pietersen, speaking at Edgbaston on Monday, said: “I am sure the Australians are probably hoping that the weather doesn’t stay like this – because Anderson, Broad, Flintoff bowling reverse swing … I wouldn’t want to be facing that.
“We’re going to be really tough to play against,” added Pietersen ahead of the start of England’s warm-up match here against Warwickshire, which gets underway on Wednesday.
“If batters do conquer our reverse-swing, I look forward to watching them. It will take some serious batting against those bowlers, all at 90mph reverse-swinging it both ways.
As for the latest comment by the now Test retired leg-spinner Warne, his former captain at Hampshire, Pietersen said: “It’s a compliment coming from a legend of the game. But England are certainly not a one-man team.
“We’ve got (Andrew) Strauss who scored so many hundreds recently; Alastair Cook has also scored hundreds in the last six months; (Paul) Collingwood the same, (Ravi) Bopara three in his last three Test innings.
“I’ve scored a few; Flintoff has come back into the team; Matty Prior’s batting has been outstanding.
“That’s without even talking about our bowlers.”
As well as Warne, Australia are now without several retired stars in openers Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden, fast bowler Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist.
Pietersen believes the absence of wicket-keeper/batsman Gilchrist will be an especially big loss for Australia.
“The big one that we don’t see is Gilchrist coming in at seven,” he notes.
“In Perth (during England’s 2006/07 5-0 Ashes defeat) when he came in and hit one of the quickest hundreds in history, that was just demoralising.”
Just as a previous generation of England fans worried about Denis Compton’s knee, so Pietersen’s Achilles injury has become a cause for concern after the South Africa-born batsman admitted it could rule him out at any time.
However, Pietersen – whose 158 at the Oval in 2005 helped England secure the draw that saw them seal a 2-1 Ashes triumph in his first Test series – was in bullish mood on Monday.
“I’m a really positive person. So until I actually miss a Test match, I will not start thinking about missing one.
“I’m ‘rehabbing’ every single day. I’ve been as professional as I can.”
Looking ahead, he added: “The Australians are a fantastic side. Their last series was in South Africa, and they won. That’s not easy to do.
“But our side has improved a lot, and we are going to be a force to be reckoned with.”
Meanwhile all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, the star of England’s 2005 success, insists he has gotten over the experience of captaining the side when they were being subsequently thrashed in Australia.
Flintoff, on his way back from a knee injury sustained while playing in the Indian Premier League, said: “The last Ashes was the low point of my career. You experience the euphoria of 2005 and then the disappointments of 2006-2007. Probably the last series emotionally was the stronger of the two.
“But all that is behind us. We have got a very new team and, rather than dining out on 2005 or dwelling on 2006-2007, it is all about what happens over the next six weeks.”
SBS will broadcast the 2009 Ashes live from Wednesday July 8.