“Superman of cricket” Ben Stokes, and “grumpy uncle” Jimmy Anderson can win the Ashes for England, according to former spinner Monty Panesar, who knows a thing or two about facing the old enemy.

England are due to open their Ashes campaign against Australia on Wednesday morning, with the first Test to be played at the Gabba in Brisbane and the hosts being backed to retain the urn.

However, Panesar thinks everybody has it wrong with how this series will pan out and he puts his case across below.

“Everyone’s talking about Australia, but I really think England are favourites to win the Ashes,” Panesar told us. “I think if we get some sort of play (in the first Test), which at the moment we just don’t know with the forecast, as it appears the first four days could be a washout, then a draw would be like a win for England.

“If they go to Adelaide for the pink (ball second) Test, I think that’s where England have the upper hand. England probably need to win that Test match to command their position on the tour and think that they are serious contenders to win this (series). I can see England winning the series, with the emergence of Ben Stokes being back in the team. Joe Root will want to taste that victory.”

Panesar added: “It’s going to be a lot closer than you think, I think England will win the Ashes 2-1.”

Stokes is set to return to the England side against Australia after a period out of the team and Panesar believes the all-rounder can have a major effect on the series.

Panesar said: “The Superman of cricket (Ben Stokes) is going to be absolutely crucial, all aspects of his persona. There’s going to be times when he’s not bowling and he’s helping others. It’s just his presence on the field, it makes a huge difference.

“It’s great to have him back because with the bowling he can produce some great spells, batting he’ll obviously be heavily involved, and even in the field. Let’s hope Ben Stokes can produce the same heroics that he did on English pitches but in Australia, because it’ll get the Barmy Army and all English fans going crazy.”

Panesar believes that there’s a few more reasons to be concerned if you’re an Australian ahead of the first Test.

“I think the biggest concerns lie within Australia,” he said. “They have a new captain (Pat Cummins) coming in, they haven’t played much Test cricket this year and with England having played 12 Test matches, they have that game time under their belt.

“Australia haven’t got anything. The likes of Steve Smith, David Warner and Mitchell Starc, the last Test match they played was when they lost against India in Brisbane [in January]. There’s a lot of pressure on Australia.”

Panesar added: “They’re [Australia] going to be under extreme pressure, they’ve got to live up to the expectation of the last 20-30 years of how captains play cricket in Australia, and I think over the past five years Australia have fizzled away from that reputation.”

Panesar believes Australia’s appointment of Cummins as captain will prove crucial in the series, and particularly how Joe Root handles his new counterpart.

He said: “I think England are a stronger team than Australia with the pink ball, and Australia, with this unknown captain, makes England favourites (for me) going into the series.

“It’s Pat Cummins’ first time captaining, and we don’t really know what his captaincy style is. Will he lean too much on Steve Smith and David Warner for big decisions, or will he be able to take the big decisions himself? We don’t really know that, and this is where, if I was Joe Root, I would absolutely create the doubt and uncomfortable feeling when he (Cummins) comes out to bat or even on to bowl, with the odd comment about his captaincy. Just keep poking at his captaincy.”

Panesar is also expecting his former England team-mate Jimmy Anderson to play an important role for the tourists over the coming weeks despite being set to miss the opener.

“Jimmy Anderson is the only member left from the 2010/11 Ashes team, and his desire, hunger, and willingness to keep improving and developing new skills is still there,” he said. “He probably knows this is his last Ashes in Australia and I think he will want to produce the similar heroics that he did in 2010/11.

“He’s got this tag of a grumpy uncle, that’s what they call him, and we need more of that grumpy uncle to come out on the field because when he gets grumpy and angry that’s when he really gets in the thick of it and produces some of his great spells. We, as English fans, will be desperate for him to do well, because we need him to do well to have a chance of winning in Australia.”

Panesar has plenty of faith in Root’s ability to be the second captain in 34 years to win an Ashes series Down Under, and as a member of the squad that last did it in 2010/11, he knows just what it takes.

“The Test match at the Gabba where Alastair Cook batted the whole day, I just sat in the pavilion as 12th man watching him bat all day long, thinking ‘wow’,” Panesar said. “That was the point where we thought hang on a minute guys, I reckon we can win the Ashes in Australia.”

As for threats in Australia’s line-up, Panesar isn’t looking at one of the big names.

He said: “There’s one player in the Australian team who seems an interesting one, the all-rounder Cameron Green. He’s a slightly tall bowler similar to Ollie Robinson and he could be an interesting match winner for Australia.

“I would like to think that the experience of England’s bowlers can deal with the emerging talent of Australia, though, and the threat of Steve Smith is always there. If they can get him out early, then England’s tail will be up.”

Panesar added: “The Australian crowd always feel they have something to prove, with the history involved, and they want to prove they are better than us. They will be confrontational, unsympathetic, and unfriendly, and they’ll let the England team know they’re in for an aggressive time. But, if England suddenly do well then, that same Australian crowd can turn against Australia. Hopefully the England team can use the aggressive approach from the crowd in their favour and become tighter as a team and unit.”

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