London: Former wicket keeper Alec Stewart has claimed England`s outstanding team spirit coupled with Australia`s current turmoil would give them the favourite tag to retain the Ashes series this season.
"England have played themselves into a great position to regain the status as the No.1 Test side in the world. What has impressed me with England`s current squad of players is the way they all seem to enjoy each other`s success, which emphasises the excellent spirit and unity that has been created," Stewart wrote in his column for an English daily.
“Matt Prior`s comments after his 82 in the first innings, which helped England post 465, summed everything up for me.” When asked if he was thinking about posting a ton he responded, “It`s not the way I play. All that`s important to me is making sure the team is in the right position,” he added.
"Prior is the perfect example of what a team player is all about and how he puts their cause ahead of any personal gain. This is not always the case in sport and the issues that the Aussies encountered last week when the team management axed four players from their squad for the third Test in India is a fine example," he further wrote.
Stewart further added: "Vice-captain Shane Watson, Mitchell Johnson, James Pattinson and Usman Khawaja were all left out for breaches of discipline, which included not responding to coach Mickey Arthur`s request to let him know three points on how their individual performances and those of the team could be improved."
"I believe that the hard-line taken by Australian cricket will benefit them in the long run as each individual will now understand exactly what the team stands for," he wrote.
"I also expect England to retain the little urn as, man-for-man, England are -currently a better team than Australia," he concluded.