Kevin Pietersen believes a lack of support for James Anderson will prevent England from regaining the Ashes from Australia.
The controversial batsman has been in England exile ever since the team returned home from their 5-0 thrashing in Australia in 2013/14.
The South Africa-born Pietersen is adamant he wants England to win in his absence, but he just can’t see them doing so because of a lack of wicket-taking back-up for attack-leader Anderson.
Australia have two genuine fast bowlers in left-armers Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc, with Josh Hazlewood set to be the tourists’ third seamer and the 35-year-old Pietersen fears England lack similar firepower.
‘Sadly I think Australia will win 2-1,’ Pietersen wrote in his Daily Telegraph column.
‘I want England to win but I just can’t see it happening. I hope I am wrong. The difference between the two teams this series is we do not have that strike bowler who can lead the attack and take wickets while James Anderson is resting between spells.
‘Two years ago we had [now retired off-spinner] Graeme Swann but I’m concerned as to who will be our match-winner if Anderson does not turn up.
‘It is essential Stuart Broad and Mark Wood are firing and taking wickets. England’s route to victory then lies with Alastair Cook and Joe Root scoring lots of runs, and the bowling attack working in partnerships to make up for that lack of a strike bowler.’
Pietersen also insisted England would not regain the Ashes by trying to contain Australia.
‘You have to make a play,’ he said. ‘England have to come out and attack Australia. There is no way in the world they are going to win the series by being defensive.’
As for the vexed issue of ‘sledging’, with Anderson insisting he no longer felt the need to verbally abuse opposition players and many fans rejoicing in the sporting atmosphere that existed during England’s preceding series with New Zealand, Pietersen insisted it was ‘good for the game’.
‘Australians are intimidating people when they get on top of you. So England guys have to fight them on their own terms. Do not take a backward step,’ Pietersen said.
‘The Ashes is sporting war and sledging is good for the game. I want more of it and I want there to be fire in the series.
‘I do not want to see people laughing and joking with each other. It is Ashes cricket.
‘You do not test people mentally by smiling at the opposition on the field. Do not cross the line or be personal. But stand up and take them on,’ he added.