DAVID LLOYD: All of a sudden, I’ve changed my mind – I can see England winning the Ashes 4-0!

It was all doom and gloom as far as I was concerned the day England announced their Ashes squad. Where was the fire? Where was the aggression? The pace? I couldn’t see anything other than a 5-0 Australia win. But things have changed.

Not only have they added a fit-again Ben Stokes — and I’m told he is firing on all cylinders — but there has been a massive shifting of the goalposts. And that’s left me feeling much more optimistic. I’ll now go 4-0 to the tourists!

My Ashes experiences of Brisbane as an England player in 1974-75 and as coach in 1998-99 were both affected by weather — it rained so much in 1998 that the tunnel down to the dressing rooms was like a river — and it looks as though the same could happen this week and beyond.


Ben Stokes could be the difference as England’s Ashes tour in Australia begins this week

Joe Root’s side will start their Ashes campaign at the Gabba in Brisbane this week


There’s been no real preparation of the first Test pitch. That means the pace and bounce that makes the Gabba a fortress will be negated. And the forecast remains for storms during the Test.

It sounds like it’s going to be an English early-season type seaming pitch with no great pace, which brings England right into this Ashes — even though their almost complete lack of preparation is a real hold-your-breath factor.

Rather than thinking in terms of getting out of Brisbane with a rain-affected draw, England should now be confident of having the better hand for these conditions. That ends the argument over whether Jimmy Anderson or Stuart Broad plays. They both should.

Ollie Robinson is another certainty for the first Test which starts on Tuesday night. But the big question, with Stokes certain to play and provide balance, is whether spinner Jack Leach should be included or if England should lengthen the batting line-up.

Ollie Robinson is another bowler to look out for as England look to cause a stir down under

I would go with Chris Woakes in that final bowling place because he adds to the batting strength at eight and his bowling should be perfect for these conditions. But that lack of match practice in Australia is a concern.

I recently did a function with Graham Gooch and he is someone who always went to the furthest degree with his preparation.

Gooch, who was England batting coach when they won the Ashes in 2010-11, said you have to play warm-up matches in Australia —like Andrew Strauss’s winning team did. You have to get battle-hardened because they will come at you like you’d never believe.

But Australia have had just as little preparation as England — even less with the red ball — and have had to change their captain at the last moment, with the rarity a fast bowler, Pat Cummins, taking over from Tim Paine.

Pat Cummins (left) is Australia’s new captain but Steve Smith (right) will lead in all but name

He’s very capable and a wonderful bowler but I see Steve Smith has been shoved in as vice-captain and there’s no doubt in my mind he’ll lead the side in all but name.

My concern remains England’s openers. Rory Burns is still batting with a technique that no-one has ever succeeded with in Test cricket, and Haseeb Hameed reminds me of a schoolboy trying to have his turn to bat.

You can’t block your way to success in Australia. Yes, you have to defend well — one of the greatest attacking batsmen of them all, Viv Richards, had a fantastic defence — but you have to score and I just don’t see Hameed as ‘game savvy’.

I desperately want both openers to do well but I have far more confidence in the rest of the team.

All of a sudden it’s a team I can see upsetting the odds and winning the Ashes.