SPORTSDESK COMMENT:ASHES SPECIAL

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The build-up to the 2013/14 Ashes Series came to an end this morning as Alastair Cook’s England side kicked off their bid to retain the Urn in Brisbane.

The build-up has been slightly quieter than usual, more than likely due to the fact we’ve seen back-to-back series this year, and I think most people know what to expect from both sides.

A replica Ashes Urn is seen on the outfield at The Gabba, Brisbane, Australia. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday November 20, 2013. See PA story CRICKET England. Photo credit should read: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only; Strictly no commercial use; No transmission of sound or moving images;  No use with any unofficial third party logos. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information.

A replica Ashes Urn is seen on the outfield at The Gabba, Brisbane, Australia. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday November 20, 2013. See PA story CRICKET England. Photo credit should read: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only; Strictly no commercial use; No transmission of sound or moving images; No use with any unofficial third party logos. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information.

Australia line up with a more settled side than the experimental unit they selected over here, and I think that will help them enormously.

Their skipper Michael Clarke tried his best to stoke up the pre-series mind-games by predicting the England line-up, and I don’t think he’ll have been far wrong.

I’ve stuck my neck out and gone for a 2-1 Australia win.

I’m basing that on their home advantage and more settled side. I hope I’m proved wrong though, and I certainly could be as it’s not an easy one to call once again.

SPORTSDESK PREDICTIONS

Sports editor Andy Bloomfield

Who will win? England will retain the Ashes.

And the score? I think in the last Ashes Series the Aussies showed signs of improvement, so I’ll go for 2-2.

Man of the series? Kevin Pietersen for me.

Key men? England - James Anderson, Australia - Peter Siddle

Deputy sports editor Martin Dowey

Who will win? England’s all-round side is better than the Australians. I think they’ll prove their class again.

And the score? I’m confident so I’ll go for 3-0 to England.

Man of the series? James Anderson will have a huge role to play if England are to retain the Urn.

Key men? England - Joe Root, Australia - Shane Watson

Sports reporter Daniel Gregory

Who will win? Australia. If they can keep Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris and Mitchell Johnson fit then I think they’ll be able to do some damage.

And the score? I think it will be another close series, but I’m going with home advantage and a more settled Australian side to take it 2-1.

Man of the series? Ryan Harris. If he can stay fit I think he’ll fire the hosts to the victory.

Key men? England - Jonathan Trott, Australia - Michael Clarke

Reporter Rhys Howell

Who will win? England.

And the score? I’m backing England to take the series 2-1.

Man of the series? I think England’s Ian Bell will have another strong series with the bat.

Key men? England - Alastair Cook, Australia - Ryan Harris