James Anderson the key as Glenn McGrath 'sits on fence' in Ashes prediction

James Anderson the key as Glenn McGrath 'sits on fence' in Ashes prediction | ESPNcricinfo.com James Anderson the key as Glenn McGrath 'sits on fence' in Ashes prediction --> Skip to navigation < > MenuESPNcricinfo ScoresAll cricket scores, fixtures and results here. More ESPNEdition James Anderson the key as Glenn McGrath 'sits on fence' in Ashes prediction13mAndrew Miller'Will be very happy if Shastri continues as coach' - Kohli11mNagraj GollapudiNo concussion substitute if like for like player not available3hDaniel Brettig'The first six months I didn't enjoy the job much, it was very hard'11hDaniel BrettigLanger reveals personal toll of coaching Australia1dDaniel BrettigDefeat doesn't negate Bangladesh's progress - Mushfiqur10hESPNcricinfo staffExclusive: Langeveldt focussed on improving Bangladesh's consistency10hMohammad IsamKhawaja one session away from Ashes fitness1dDaniel Brettig at EdgbastonAvishka Fernando, Angelo Mathews star as Sri Lanka wrap up series win1dThe Report by Mohammad IsamTwo things we learned from the World Cup9dIan ChappellThe players who lit up the 2019 World Cup10dAnantha NarayananAlex Carey always finds a way11dJarrod Kimber1992 parallels, Kohli's statesmanship, and the Afridi award for retirement12dOsman SamiuddinWhat we loved, gasped at, and were disappointed by in the World Cup11dESPNcricinfo staffStarc, Archer, Ferguson, Bumrah in ESPNcricinfo's 2019 World Cup XI12dESPNcricinfo staffA World Cup dominated by left-arm seamers and No. 3 batsmen12dESPNcricinfo stats team. Graphics by Ishita MazumderWhy count boundaries to determine who wins a World Cup? Here are three better ways13dSidharth Monga'If you'd said four years ago I'd be a World Cup winner now, I might not have believed you'13dInterviews by George DobellThe World Cup on social media13dESPNcricinfo staffLook ma, no fingernails14dMark NicholasIf cricket were to end tomorrow, at least we'll have this game14dSambit BalSecurity scare delayed GT20 Canada fixture21hPeter Della PennaMeg Lanning, Ellyse Perry steer Australia within touching distance of white-ball Ashes sweep1dThe Report by Matt Roller at Hove'If you are a great talent, you need time' - Shreyas Iyer1dESPNcricinfo staffDobell: More hand-wringing over top order as England try to persuade Joe Root to bat at No.32dGeorge DobellJofra Archer earns Ashes call-up after star turn at World Cup2dESPNcricinfo staffWinning back vice-captaincy was logical next step for Ben Stokes, Ashley Giles says2dESPNcricinfo staffHamilton Masakadza hints at dressing-room rift in letter to sports minister2dLiam BrickhillThere are no salaries, people don't know what to do - Mary-Anne Musonda5dLiam BrickhillWhen Colombo swooned to a Malinga time loop2dMadushka Balasuriya in Colombo'There won't be another toe crusher like Malinga'2dESPNcricinfo staff'I wasn't as true to myself as I could have been' - Bancroft battles back2dDaniel BrettigTime is now for first-choice Pattinson2dDaniel Brettig in SouthamptonLasith Malinga masterclass, Kusal Perera ton seal Sri Lanka win3dThe Report by Mohammad IsamChris Woakes and Stuart Broad wreck Ireland dream in a session3dThe Report by George Dobell at Lord'sEngland achieve once-a-century comeback as Ireland are rolled for 383dBharath SeerviMohammad Amir, the lost genius3dDanyal RasoolMohammad Amir announces retirement from Test cricket3dUmar Farooq'I hit the ball as well as I have for a long time' - Lanning3dESPNcricinfo staffMeg Lanning's record knock grinds England into the dirt3dThe Report by Valkerie BaynesJoe Root critical of 'substandard' Lord's pitch after avoiding embarrassment against Ireland3dESPNcricinfo staffTrevor Bayliss questions England 'ruthlessness' against lesser opponents3dAndrew MillerWest Indies pick Chris Gayle for ODIs against India, leave out Darren Bravo3dESPNcricinfo staffMohammad Hafeez replaces Rassie van der Dussen in St Kitts and Nevis Patriots squad3dESPNcricinfo staffJames Anderson the key as Glenn McGrath 'sits on fence' in Ashes predictionplayMcGrath's Ashes advice for the Australian bowlers (1:45)

Glenn McGrath explains the secret for Ashes success for an Australian bowler in England (1:45)

FacebookTwitterFacebook MessengerEmail12:04 PM ETAndrew MillerUK editor, ESPNcricinfo CloseAndrew Miller was saved from a life of drudgery in the City when his car caught fire on the way to an interview. He took this as a sign and fled to Pakistan where he witnessed England's historic victory in the twilight at Karachi (or thought he did, at any rate - it was too dark to tell). He then joined Wisden Online in 2001, and soon graduated from put-upon photocopier to a writer with a penchant for comment and cricket on the subcontinent. In addition to Pakistan, he has covered England tours in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007Follow on TwitterFacebookTwitterFacebook MessengerPinterestEmailprint

It is a measure of what a close Ashes series we have in prospect that even Glenn McGrath has chosen to 'sit on the fence' instead of offering up his traditional '5-0 to Australia' prediction.

However, McGrath believes that the key to the series is held by James Anderson, the man who recently overhauled his all-time record for Test wickets by a fast bowler, as Australia bid to win the Ashes in England for the first time since 2001.

Anderson, like McGrath, continues to operate at the peak of his powers long after his contemporaries have begun to succumb to the ravages of time. Though he turns 37 on Tuesday, he is still the ICC's No.2-ranked fast bowler in Test cricket with 575 wickets to his name, and he is much the same age as McGrath himself was when he spearheaded Australia's 5-0 Ashes win in his farewell series in 2006-07.

'To be 37-plus, and to have played 148 Test matches, it's absolutely incredible,' McGrath told ESPNcricinfo. 'To think that he's put his body through that much pain and stress, and everything that goes into being a fast bowler, and he's still going out there and going the business.

'When that ball's swinging, in English conditions with the Dukes ball, there's no-one better. So yeah, if Australia can get on top of Jimmy, that's going to be a big decider in this Test series. But if Jimmy comes out, bowls well and knocks the Australians over, it's going to be another tough series for them.'

Adapting to the Dukes ball will be a major factor in Australia's campaign, not only for the batsman facing Anderson and Co, but their own coterie of fast bowlers who look, on paper, as strong an outfit as has toured England in many a series. England know full well about Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, but James Pattinson's form is particularly noteworthy in the lead-up to Edgbaston, as shown by his success on a lively practice wicket at the Ageas Bowl last week.

'It's going to be an amazing series,' said McGrath. 'I think this Australian bowling attack is looking as good as it's been for a long time. To have James Pattinson back and what he offers … he's been bowling incredibly well, but it's just that attitude and 'white-line fever', I guess you'd call it. As soon as he crosses the line, he's very dangerous.

'To have that wealth of fast bowlers, that's tough for the selectors, and it's going to be interesting to see which way they go for that first Test match. But it's a good thing to have.'

It's an especially tantalising proposition given the insecurities in England's batting order at present. In an extraordinary Test against Ireland at Lord's last week, England were bowled out for 85 in the first innings and lost 7 for 77 in the second, and McGrath admitted that the Australians would be itching to reopen a few wounds.

James Anderson and Joe Root inspect the ball Getty Images

'They'll be keen to get a look at that top order as soon as possible,' he said, 'but they'll still have to bowl in the right areas. I think that's very important. If they bowl badly, and let those guys get settled and get a little bit of confidence, the series is over. But if they can bowl well at those guys, get on top of them, and get Joe Root in at 3 for 30 rather than 3 for 300, it makes a massive difference, and it's a massive match-up for the series.'

When it comes to bowling the right length in England, no-one exemplifies it better than McGrath, who hoovered up 87 wickets at 19.34 in his three tours from 1997 to 2005, including a remarkable 33 at 11.50 at Lord's, the venue for the second Test. But even he had to learn the hard way, after a chastening first outing in England at Edgbaston in 1997.

'I remember that '97 series very well,' he said. 'It was my first tour of England, and in that first Test match, we probably bowled more of an Australian length. England dominated - they won that Test by nine wickets - and the day after, Geoff Marsh, the coach of the time, got us out for like two hours straight, off a long run in the middle of Edgbaston.

'It was all about bowling the right length, getting it up there a little bit fuller. And that had a massive impact. And when we came to Lord's, we adapted and adjusted our length, and the rest is history. So yeah, you need that time to adjust. The great players adjust and adapt a lot quicker, and that's the difference between a good and a great player.'

With that in mind, Australia ought to be as well acquainted with the conditions as possible. Not only have the majority of the squad been over in England competing at the World Cup, several others have been involved in the Australia A tour that has been running concurrently. Plus, several players with points to prove, including Pattinson and the returning Cameron Bancroft, have been honing their skills in county cricket.

However, McGrath isn't quite as bullish about his fellow countrymen's prospects as he might once have been.

'I'm always confident that the Aussies are going to do well, but I've probably made a rod for my own back with my predictions in the past,' he said. 'I'm going to sit on the fence for this one, and just see what happens in this first Test. If Australia can come in and dominate - or not so much dominate, but if they can win that first Test - then you'll be hearing 5-0 again. But I'm going to reserve my prediction until after the first game.'

In the meantime, McGrath has got a trip back to a familiar ground to look forward to, where a familiar incident is bound to be replayed ad nauseum in the build-up to the Ashes opener - that moment, on the morning of the 2005 Edgbaston Test, when he trod on a stray cricket ball to turn the tide of the series.

'It's not my fondest memory,' he said. 'But every time I go back to Edgbaston, the groundsman and the locals remind me exactly which patch of grass it happened on, and they've always told me they going to put a little plaque there just to commemorate it.

'But that 2005 series was an incredible series, even that match at Edgbaston went right down to the wire. Hopefully we'll see another series that matches that one.'

Glenn McGrath is working with online trading broker ThinkMarkets to encourage more young people to get into sport through the Think2020initiative. For more information please visit www.thinkmarkets.com.

FacebookTwitterFacebook MessengerEmail ABOUT COOKIES To help make this website better, to improve and personalize your experience and for advertising purposes, are you happy to accept cookies and other technologies?

Yes More Info Here Cookie Choices

Moeen Ali wheels away in celebration

Wriddhiman Saha collects low to his left

Rahul Dravid at the Under-19 World Cup

Jess Jonassen brought up her half-century off 25 balls in the last over of the innings

Tim Paine and Steven Smith during the day"s play

Moeen Ali had a long bowl on his Championship return