Dropping Vaughan a mistake - Warne
Shane Warne, the former Australian legspinner, has said the decision to leave out Michael Vaughan from the pre-Ashes camp was a blunder given his wealth of experience as a former Ashes-winning captain. Vaughan has made only 147 runs at 21.00 for Yorkshire this season and the chief selector Geoff Miller said he would have to make runs consistently in the county season to force his way back.
"England may have made a mistake by leaving Michael Vaughan out of what looks to be their big Ashes squad," Warne wrote in his column for the Times. "Admittedly, I haven't seen him for a while, but I do know that he's a big-match player who can bring that touch of class. He deals with the short ball really well and looks to attack. Tactically, he could have helped [Andrew] Strauss."
Warne had earlier questioned the presence of Ravi Bopara in England's plans, saying he was not yet ready for international cricket, and he couldn't resist another dig at England's in-form Test batsman.
"I've said a few things before in this column about Ravi Bopara's temperament. He looks a bit flaky," Warne said. "But I'm not thinking of it as a case of Vaughan or Bopara. Vaughan is not just a better batsman than Bopara - I'd put him above everybody bar Pietersen. As long as he is making runs and can run between the wickets, he would be in my team."
Looking ahead to the Ashes, which begins at Cardiff on July 8, Warne said Australia's bowlers would help the team retain the urn.
"Yes, of course you need runs on the board, but if Australia can take some cheap wickets with the new ball, they can definitely roll over England, even with Freddie Flintoff to come back after missing the West Indies series," he said.
"Australia will be looking to get them about 3 for 50 because, looking at their line-up, England could then find themselves all out for 100. I think they rely on Andrew Strauss and especially Kevin Pietersen, so a big task for Australia is to identify the guys most likely to put those two under pressure. I really hope that Nathan Hauritz is going to play, and Mitchell Johnson is a certainty."
Warne reckoned at least four fast bowlers will chase two spots and he backed Brett Lee to make the starting line-up, despite the fast bowler's struggles during the World Twenty20. Lee will compete with Peter Siddle, Stuart Clark and Ben Hilfenhaus to partner Johnson.
"I'd love Ricky Ponting to be able to give him (Lee) first crack because he's a great kid and has experience of the Ashes," he said.
"Peter Siddle has a big future. He reminds me of Darren Gough with his big heart. He is one of those whose last ball of the day is as good as his first. Any captain would want to fit him in, if he could."
The one worry for Australia, Warne said, is the form of Michael Hussey and therefore, there could be a slot open in the batting line-up. Hussey's patchy form - he has scored 322 runs at 23.00 in his past eight Tests - and exhaustion due to Australia's packed international schedule forced him to reassess his future with the team and he even contemplated giving up one form of the game.
"Hussey needs a score over the next fortnight to cement his place. The onus is on the others to push him out, yes, but if [Shane] Watson and [Marcus] North get runs it will be an interesting decision," Warne said. "I don't think Hussey's place should be guaranteed. Watson would be good enough for No 3, if it came to it."