Having recently spent time in the Old Dart, I can report first-hand that there is a general sense of gloom hanging heavily over England’s Ashes hopes.
A 1-1 series draw with New Zealand hasn’t enthused the locals at all.
Despite the Kiwis playing some outstanding cricket it was felt that England should have beaten them on their home dirt.
After all, if you can’t beat New Zealand at home, how are you going to beat Australia?
England have named the same squad that contested that two-Test series, which tells us that they either have confidence in the continuity of the team or they don’t have anyone else with enough talent to pick.
The most important addition is to their coaching staff, in the form of Trevor Bayliss.
The new England coach will bring both intimate knowledge of the opposition and a fresh approach to a staid organisation, but can he make up for a team seemingly outgunned and overpowered?
England will rely heavily on Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad to take new-ball wickets and that potentially could be Australia’s Achilles heel.
Over the past two years, while the Aussie bowlers have overwhelmed batting line-ups, their own top-order have regularly struggled.
In the last Ashes series, it was Brad Haddin coming in at seven along with the tail who frequently dragged Australia to defendable totals.
Recently, in the West Indies, the first Test was evenly poised with Australia at 6-120. New old-boy Adam Voges stayed with the bottom half of the order to once again resurrect an innings from a precarious position.
The problem with Anderson and Broad is that they have become quite inconsistent even within a single innings.
At times their swing and pace is irresistible but that can be followed rapidly by loss of focus, line and length.
The new boy Mark Wood looks like he could become more of a handful as he hits the seam hard and has a surprisingly sharp bouncer.
England have two spinners in their 13-man squad, one being the allrounder Moeen Ali.
Moeen is more a batsman who bowls a bit. He is good enough to keep it tight and pick up the occasional wicket but is unable to bowl a side out – even in helpful conditions, which the spinners may well find in Cardiff.
I reckon Bayliss would prefer to play the attacking option, leg-spinner Adil Rashid, who did well in the white-ball games against the Black Caps.
England have certainly been conservative in the past by choosing all-rounders, lengthening the batting but softening the penetration.
Unless the England seamers are at their best and get conditions to suit, then it will be very hard to dominate Australia.
Australia has the breadth and depth in the attack to take 20 wickets per Test.
Ryan Harris’ recent retirement matters little to Australia as they would have debated leaving out arguably their best bowler of the past nine months, in Josh Hazlewood, or even the man of the last Ashes, Mitchell Johnson.
Mitchell Starc has been simply outstanding in both white and red-ball cricket and that leaves the spin option.
While England have concentrated their attention on the faster bowlers, there has been a general underrating of Nathan Lyon.
Bayliss will put an end to that. Lyon is the best finger spinner in Australia’s Test history.
His combination with the fast men is an integral piece in the Australian attack.
Australia have an attack to suit all conditions, unlike the previous series in England, when pitches were rolled out dry for Graeme Swann’s turn and Anderson’s reverse swing.
I expect some good batting pitches where wickets are hard-earned.
England want to make big scores so they don’t get beaten and it is that defensive attitude that may well cost them any real chance of winning.
My prediction is Australia to win 4-0 … because it will rain sometime.