England Test cricket great Sir Geoffrey Boycott has cast serious doubt over his former side's ability to win the Ashes series against Australia.
On Tuesday, reports filtered through that veteran quick James Anderson had been ruled out of the first Test because of a calf injury, although comments from within the England camp suggest he is being rested.
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However, it is England's batting attack that legendary Test opener Boycott is the most worried about before the first Test at the Gabba, getting underway on Wednesday.
Writing for UK publication The Telegraph, Boycott said he's unsure England's batting attack have enough runs in them to beat the Aussies in their own backyard, with skipper Joe Root the only member of the tourists' batting lineup that averages more than 37 runs.
“For me it has always been about whether England can make enough runs in Australia,” Boycott wrote in The Telegraph.
“Joe Root is our only batsman with a Test average above 37. If you can’t make runs, you can’t win Test matches.
“I am aware that Australia aren’t a great batting unit either. But their seamers - Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood - are better than ours on Australian pitches.
“Pace is usually the ace in Australia. They have more quality than England so our batsmen have got to win the battle against those three.”
Root is still yet to confirm the make-up of his batting attack and Boycott says there will be added pressure on the England skipper to perform, if the tourists are any hope of winning the series in Australia.
“Four years ago in Australia he batted nicely, making five scores over 50 in his nine innings. But he never went on to stamp his authority on any match,” Boycott added.
“We all know that England’s batting is fragile so a lot depends on the experienced, big-name players in the team.
“If they do well it will lift the youngsters who are new to Ashes cricket. I would expect Australia to target Root, because he is the captain and best batsman.
“They will feel that if they can get him down and out cheaply it will have a psychological effect on the other players.”
The Test great says Ben Stokes looms as an X-factor for England but will have to overcome the enormous challenge of returning after a long break from the sport to work on his mental health.
“What a cricketer Ben Stokes is. But being out of cricket for so long nobody - not even himself - has any idea what effect that will have on his form. England need his runs more than his bowling,” Boycott wrote.
“But can he recapture his batting against this top-class seam attack having had no cricket for six months and limited match practice? That’s tough.
“It will take a monumental effort of skill, courage and mental toughness. But in the past he’s shown all these qualities a number of times.”
England insist James Anderson is not injured
The absence of England's all-time leading wicket-taker Anderson, who has claimed 632 scalps in a storied career, will make the tourists' hopes of an opening win that much more difficult.
On Tuesday, England claimed that Anderson was "not carrying an injury" and suggested that his first Test omission was strategic.
Anderson, who has played 18 Test in Australia and was part of England's victorious 2010-11 tour, is likely to be good to go for next week's pink-ball clash at Adelaide Oval.
Root is expected to wait until the toss to name his XI for the series opener.
Anderson's unavailability would leave Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood, Ollie Robinson and Jack Leach as the tourists' leading options with the ball.
The visitors may be tempted to pick four pacemen, although Stokes' inclusion is a boost to left-arm spinner Leach's hopes of a call-up.
Australia captain Pat Cummins confirmed Australia's XI on Sunday, backing Travis Head to bat at No.5 in favour of Usman Khawaja.
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