Having last been seen losing to Pakistan, Ricky Ponting has opened the phoney war ahead of the Ashes by declaring that his side are capable of a clean sweep in the five-Test series that begins in November.
The Australian captain outlined his ambitions ahead of a meeting with his side's coaching team and officials from Cricket Australia to plan their winter campaign in Melbourne yesterday. Asked whether Australia could repeat their 5-0 whitewash of three years ago, Ponting replied: "It's absolutely possible, there's no reason why not."
Ponting is the only captain from Australia to have twice lost the Ashes. The first time he did so, in England five years ago, Australia responded by crushing a touring side that had arrived Down Under bristling with optimism. Then Ponting could call on the likes of Warne, McGrath and Langer, but his current line-up is less impressive and likely to be almost identical to the one that lost the Ashes at The Oval last summer.
"It's how well we play and how well we take charge of different situations," said Ponting on his side's chances in the Ashes, that begin at the Gabba on 25 November. Last summer, Australia were hammered by 197 runs in the series decider at The Oval. "We've learned from a lot of the mistakes that we've made.
"We know now that we're a more experienced and probably a better team than we were then. We put that together plus we are playing in our conditions. We hope to win this series and win it well.
"Batting collapses probably were the reason we lost the series last time around and our inability to bowl them out on the last day in Cardiff. I've got confidence in the squad of players that we've got that they are going to be good enough to win an Ashes series."
Australia were embarrassed by swing in the second Test against Pakistan in Headingley last month as the mini-series finished 1-1 – England are preparing for tomorrow's third Test against Pakistan having won the first two with ease.
"Anderson and Broad and those guys have really stepped up," Ponting said of the England attack. "They are coming together well as a team. They certainly have bowled well and they have had great conditions to bowl in as well, the English.
"We'll have a different set of conditions and a different ball when they come out here and I'm sure our guys will equip themselves really well. We know where we have to bowl to all of their batsmen. They've got no-one there who's going to surprise us at all."
Displays of Australian bravura are becoming commonplace ahead of meetings with the old enemy – Glenn McGrath notably forecasting a 5-0 win in 2005 before tripping over a ball at Edgbaston to assist England's dramatic recovery. England have not won a series Down Under since Mike Gatting's side triumphed in 1987.
Pakistan's wicketkeeper Zulqarnain Haider, who impressed on his debut at Edgbatson, will miss the last two Tests after fracturing his finger.