Sydney: Former Test captain Ricky Ponting believes England's ageing team are already past their best as they prepare for the Ashes opener against Australia just months after winning the urn on home soil.
Ponting, who has made headlines with his critical views on current Australian skipper Michael Clarke, admits the home side are underdogs but says an upset in the opening Test in Brisbane, starting on November 21, could give Australia momentum.
While promoting his autobiography in Perth on Wednesday, Ponting was asked if Clarke`s team could emulate the feats of 2006-07, when Australia thumped England 5-0 at home after seeing their long Ashes dominance ended in England in 2005.
"We've got a great record at the Gabba, we don't lose at the Gabba," Ponting said. "If we happen to win the first Test then I think that's possible."
"I believe right now the England team might be slightly past their absolute peak and the Australian team are only going to go up and improve. I know this group of players are going to have to play unbelievably well to win the Ashes, but I think they can."
Ponting has two major reasons to be confident: Australia`s stockpile of fast bowlers, which he describes as the best he can remember, and the age profile of England, who won the Ashes 3-0 at home in July-August.
Of England`s likely XI for the first Test, six are over 30 -- Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell, Matt Prior, James Anderson and Graeme Swann. It could be seven if Chris Tremlett plays.
"I just think they`re getting to the stage where a lot of them have been around for a long time," Ponting said.
"And they`ve been near the top for quite a while. I think some of their players would say the same, they`re probably just tapering off a fraction and our boys are on the way up."
But England wicketkeeper Prior, who is leading the tourists in their three-day tour opener against a Western Australia Chairman`s XI in Perth on Thursday, begged to differ.
"Coming over here, you've got the majority of the squad that know about playing cricket in Australia, and also know about winning in Australia, which is a huge thing and a great confidence boost," Prior said.
"Batters with experience of playing on wickets with more bounce are feeding back to the younger players," he added.
"And with the bowlers -- they already know the types of deliveries you need to bowl on Australian wickets." Australia will also be relying on their own elder statesmen to get the job done.
Opener Chris Rogers and wicketkeeper Brad Haddin are both 36, while paceman Ryan Harris is 34. Skipper Clarke, allrounder Shane Watson, paceman Mitchell Johnson and Test aspirant George Bailey are all in their early 30s.