Swann vital for England - Caddick
Former England seamer Andy Caddick feels Graeme Swann holds the key to the tourists' hopes of retaining the Ashes.
The off-spinner is sitting out the current tour match in Hobart - England's last before the opening Test - in favour of extended preparation in Brisbane.
Swann and company are bidding to do what no England side has managed since 1986-87 by winning in Australia, and many observers believe the tourists are better placed to emerge victorious than at any time in the intervening years.
Despite conceding home advantage gives Australia an edge, Caddick insists England have a good chance provided Swann performs.
“The Australians are very good in their backyard,” he told ecb.co.uk.
“I remember when Justin Langer was captaining Somerset after Australia had lost the Ashes in 2005 and all he could think about for the next 18 months was how he was going to help win the Ashes back.
“They went and did it emphatically, which says a lot about their mentality, but I think this series will be closely fought and, in the end, will come down to the bowling.
“The spin bowlers are going to be the key to it. Sydney turns, Adelaide and Brisbane could also turn and Perth has not been the pitch it once was in recent times.
“Australia are weaker in that area having lost Shane Warne, although they have rebuilt since he retired and still have a team that can win Test matches.
“In Swann, England have a quality performer who can put in match-winning performances and turn games on their head.”
Swann has been a revelation in all forms of the game since making his debut against India in 2008, climbing to second in the International Cricket Council Test bowling rankings and third in the one-day international standings.
He has claimed 113 scalps in the game’s longest form at an average of just 26.55, while also impressing as a lower-order batsman, and was shortlisted for this year’s ICC cricketer of the year award.
Although the importance of Swann has been highlighted by Caddick, he says England’s other bowlers, in particular James Anderson, must offer support.
“Swann is going to need somebody to back him up and the onus is on the seam attack to do their bit as well,” he added. “They need someone to bowl well in tandem with him to put pressure on the Aussies.
“In terms of the seamers, obviously they will be using the Kookaburra ball which is more difficult, while you must also know your grounds because the conditions change a lot from venue to venue - they are totally different
“The key to bowling with it in Australia is getting the ball to reverse and to make sure you make that happen quickly, but the thing about Australia is you have to adapt and do it quickly.
“In James Anderson, we have got a class swing bowler who has turned himself into one of the world’s leading bowlers, but it is going to depend how well he and the other seamers adapt and get the ball reversing.”
Caddick expects a closely fought series and, when pushed for a prediction, suggested a series draw is the likeliest outcome.
“It is going to be a massively even contest - I really can’t see one side running away with it," he said.
"Taking all that into account, I can see it being either a 2-2 or 1-1 draw, which would see England retain the Ashes."