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The Ashes 2013/14: England calling the shots ahead of their defence of the urn

Our Ashes Panel has its say on Carberry, Pietersen and England's bowling dilemma...

Warne pleased with Australia selection

The start of the Ashes is just days away, so how does our Ashes Panel think England and Australia are shaping up?

In the first of our two-part feature, former England captains Mike Atherton, Nasser Hussain, David Gower, Sir Ian Botham and Bob Willis share their views on the big issues facing the Ashes-holders before sizing up Australia - and making their scoreline predictions - on Tuesday...

Ways to watch The Ashes

Check out our first Ashes Podcast here

skysports.com: If Michael Clarke is right, Michael Carberry will open the batting for England despite having only one Test cap to his name. Is that a gamble?

Botham: Carbs is a terrific lad who deserves his chance in Australia. I'm delighted he's in the picture because he's had his problems, particularly with his health, but he's overcome them and now he's put a lot of pressure on the selectors with that hundred in Hobart.

Gower: Playing your first Ashes Test as a 33-year-old is very different from coming in as a 21-year-old, as I did. Carberry has put in the hard yards over the years and he deserves his chance, even if it turns out to be his only chance. Ironically as soon as the plan was seemingly confirmed, he ended up getting single figures, but you've still got to back ability. As a Hampshire man I hope it goes well for him.

Atherton: I've often found in the past that players who come to England late or after an initial disappointment sometimes have the attitude 'I've got nothing to lose' and invariably find things a little bit easier mentally. The one query I have is that he has very low hands in his stance and the extra bounce of Brisbane and Perth in particular is going to test him out.

Hussain: But Australia is a fantastic place to bat. If he doesn't get any runs there can be no excuses. Now that Carberry has been moved up the order the batting virtually picks itself, with Trott, Pietersen (in his 100th Test, don't forget) and Bell forming a pretty formidable and experienced three-to-five. Root has been a very successful six and I'd back him to get runs again.

Gower: Going down to the middle order will feel a little bit like a demotion but Root is very adaptable. At his sort of age you accept things and get on and play.

Atherton: England are obviously not concerned about him playing there but they obviously were concerned about the Cook-Root-Trott combination that spluttered a bit in the summer, hence the reason why they are taking Carberry in the first place when in the past they often haven't taken a reserve opener.

Willis: The short ball won't particularly bother Carberry so Australia's best bet is to pitch the ball up; he's slightly susceptible early on to getting trapped on his crease which makes him a possible caught behind or lbw candidate. It's a bit of a myth that all of these pitches are going to be fast and I think that most England batsmen prefer the ball coming on to the bat - Carberry and Cook included.

Cook up for the challenge

Atherton: Cook can't afford to worry about Carberry when he's walking out to the middle. He'll obviously give him a few pointers here or there but he has to concentrate on what he does and I think he'll be better suited by the bounce that he'll get in Australia rather than the rather turgid pitches we had in England, which were counter-productive for him in particular. I think Australia will bowl better at him than they did three years ago; they won't give him as much short stuff or as much to cut or clip off his hips. They are going to pitch the ball fuller and make him go searching for the drive but because of that extra bounce I think he'll have more scoring opportunities. I'm confident that he'll do well and I'm hopeful that Carberry will.

Willis: England's batting line-up is largely very efficient but Pietersen is an outstanding presence in the side - we saw that as soon as he burst on the scene with those three one-day hundreds against South Africa in early 2005. He should have walked straight into the Test team then but England made him wait until Graham Thorpe registered his 100th Test.

You don't have to like and love everyone you play with and Pietersen has had his issues with virtually every dressing room that he's been in but the fact remains he's an awesome talent. If Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar are at the top of the tree, then the likes of Ricky Ponting and Pietersen are just behind them. Cook made it pretty clear when he took over the captaincy that he wanted Pietersen straight back into the game, so the so-called re-integration process was hurried along. Bowlers generally win Test matches but Pietersen, on occasion, has single-handedly on occasions put England into positions to win games.

skysports.com: England appear no nearer to resolving their third seamer dilemma. Would you select Steven Finn, Chris Tremlett or Boyd Rankin for the first Test?

Botham: It's a great dilemma to have. While we're all expecting Graeme Swann and Jimmy Anderson to have great series, the impact of the tall bowlers will be key because I think Australia's best chance of getting a result is to play on quicker, bouncier wickets and try to get England's batsmen to nick a few. To have three bowlers competing for one spot is very healthy.

Gower: It's hard to make a judgement without seeing the warm-up games but I would lean towards Finn because he's taking wickets. The problem last time was that he took wickets but was expensive. You don't want to concede the advantage to Australia in any shape or form if you can help it, particularly in the first Test.

Atherton: England have to work out if he's picked up wickets in these opening games because he's been bowling at lesser players and decide if better players simply punish him if he bowls that way? I have to say that England have got themselves into a bit of a muddle - they can't quite settle on an opener, a number six or a third seamer and these have been on-going problems for two years.

Hussain: I would keep it simple and go on rhythm; decide on who is bowling the best and go with that man. Forget history and pick on what you see before you. As I know only too well, you shouldn't try to complicate things at Brisbane! It's not straightforward though because we haven't seen a lot of Tremlett recently, Finn has had a few issues and Rankin hasn't played that much cricket for England.

Willis: I'm a big fan of Finn but I must admit I'm worried about him because he keeps going at five runs an over against moderate opposition, so there must be a big query against him. That said I still think he's in front of Tremlett and Rankin, although David Saker does appear to be a huge fan of Tremlett even if he hasn't done a great deal in the interceding years between the 2010/11 Ashes and now. There's no particular evidence that he's been bowling at the speed of light for Surrey or in the limited opportunity he's had in the warm-up games. England are going to have to get some overs out of Root, Trott and even Pietersen if Finn is leaking runs but he is a wicket-taker. Until Tim Bresnan is fit - or Tremlett and Rankin make enormous strides - I don't think there's any alternative.

Join us on Tuesday when the Ashes Panel will share their views on Australia's first Test line-up and offer their series predictions...

Stay up or catch up - watch England's defence of the Ashes in Australia this winter ONLY on Sky Sports, starting at 11pm this Wednesday on Sky Sports 2.