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England can win the Ashes if...

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Anticipation is building for the Ashes and all the smart money in the Ashes betting markets is on England to successfully defend the little urn this summer. But Andy Flower's men need to be aware of the perils of complacency.

England are widely expected to have too much quality for an unusually poor Aussie outfit across the big five Tests and the build-up to one of summer's main events has not offered anything up to suggest there will be a shock and the tourists will come out on top.

Put simply, if Alastair Cook's squad perform at their best then Australia, currently 7/2 with Paddy Power to win the Ashes should be firmly despatched - even if Darren Lehmann manages to raise their game to a more competitive level. Bowlers Graeme Swann and Jimmy Anderson strike fear into the best teams in the world and Australia, who are not in the top three at the minute, will be very worried at the damage those two alone can inflict upon their relatively inexperienced batting line-up.

Add to that the threat posed with the bat from Cook, a fit-again Kevin Pietersen, the dependable Jonathan Trott and rising star Joe Root and you have a home side brimming with talent in all the key departments. They should have plenty of confidence too after a straightforward two-Test win over New Zealand back in May, while the one-day side's ultimate disappointment when losing in the final of the ICC Champions Trophy to India last month should not affect the positive spirit in the camp.

To add further weight to the argument that England will blow the Aussies away over the next few months, the tourists seem a side disjointed both on and off the pitch. The surprise decision to axe Mickey Arthur and bring in Lehmann must have disrupted preparations at such a late stage, while David Warner's apparent unprovoked attack on Root in a Birmingham bar showed an embarrassing lack of discipline in the squad.

However, they have regrouped somewhat since the early summer chaos and showed in their most recent warm-up win over Somerset that things may be finally looking up.

England are clearly the better-equipped side but they must be very aware of the wounded animal syndrome in Australia, who will do everything to restore their battered pride - well aware that a nation back home will not tolerate them rolling over and not giving their all for the cause even if they do still end up on the losing side.

Flower, Cook and co will talk about not taking their eye off the ball but they must be approaching the Ashes knowing they are the superior side and that can be dangerous because it's precisely then when complacency can strike.

And, even though they appear weak, Australia remain good enough to benefit from any England coasting this summer.



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