People should stop dismissing Australia as the underdogs in this year’s Ashes series, says Darren Gough

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Gough believes the rivalry between Clarke and Cook will be one of the most intense the Ashes has ever seen

Having had the experience of playing in the Ashes and knowing the pressures that come with the old rivalry between England and Australia, former England pace bowler Darren Gough has warned the cricketing world not to dismiss Australia as the underdogs during this year’s back-to-back Ashes series.

Australia have been ridiculed and humiliated by the press ever since their 4-0 whitewashing at the hands of India earlier this year, but Gough believes that they are so keen on changing their fortunes around that they will fight to the death during the Ashes series.

Gough, who took 74 wickets in 17 Ashes Tests, pointed out that Australia’s young, but relatively inexperienced, pace attack have the potential to keep England on the back foot and pose some serious problems for their batsmen as well.

“I’m not going to be as critical as some people are,” Gough told ESPNcricinfo. “Their bowling attack is very strong and the fast bowlers are superbly talented. What’s interesting to me is that most of them are coming over with the A team to have a little roll and I think that’s very important. Last time they bowled too short so they’ll be able to learn the length to bowl.”

Gough also noted that Australia’s batsmen were raring at the opportunity to prove themselves and added that Cricket Australia’s decision to bolster the squad with veteran players like Chris Rogers and Brad Haddin could end up paying dividends.

“These guys have an opportunity,” he said. “They had a poor series in India, got beaten by South Africa, and are now coming to England with a lot of them fighting for a spot in the Ashes back home. If they can get runs on the board, England will have a heck of a fight on their hands.

“They’ve realised you can’t pick players who aren’t ready. Against bowlers like Anderson, Broad, Finn and Swann you need some experience. Rogers has been a fantastic player for many years and Haddin still deserves to be Australia’s No. 1.”

Australia’s captain Michael Clarke and England skipper Alastair Cook have both enjoyed a huge amount of success with the bat over the past 18 months, and Gough believes the match-up between the two will be one of the most intense rivalries the Ashes will have seen for a long time.

“Clarke’s from the Shane Warne mould of captaincy,” Gough said. “He likes to be adventurous, sometimes a little controversial, he’s a very attacking captain which will be vital. The head-to-head with Alastair Cook, who is a different style of captain, will be fascinating. I think Clarke has handled things well so far, especially India with some of the trouble they had – I thought he came out as someone with a strong personality.”

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