South Africa captain Faf du Plessis believes England have what it takes to defeat Australia in this summer’s Magellan Ashes series, and could even head in as favourites.
Joe Root’s England side cruised to a 177-run win over the Proteas at Old Trafford on Monday, sealing a 3-1 series victory.
England’s next task is a three-game series at home against West Indies, but already their minds will be turning towards this summer’s Ashes, which will begin in Brisbane on November 23.
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Having played both teams in the past 12 months – and having captained the Proteas to a 2-1 series win over Australia last November – du Plessis believes it will likely be a battle of the fast bowlers.
"I think it’s dependent on the conditions," du Plessis said on Monday.
"I’ve always felt Australia as a team play really well on flat wickets, bouncy flat wickets, (but) if the conditions allow a bit of seam and swing and spin, then I think England will be favourites."
He reiterated those comments when speaking to the BBC’s Test Match Special, praising the “relentless” efforts of England new-ball pair James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
"If you have assistance and skill, which England's bowlers have, you can target Australia's batting line-up,” he said.
"Our batting line-up wasn't strong enough for them.
"Australia have fiery and quick batsmen so England will need to get through them.
"(But) I think England could be Ashes winners. They have a balanced team."
While du Plessis believes England can upset Australia on home soil, England head coach Trevor Bayliss isn’t getting carried away with the 3-1 win over the Proteas.
Questions remain over the make-up of England’s top five, with only Root and Alastair Cook assured of taking their places in the XI Down Under.
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Opener Keaton Jennings averaged 15.87 against the Proteas and seems unlikely to be given another chance against the West Indies, while new No.3 Tom Westley and No.5 Dawid Malan have yet to cement their places.
"It's always a good thing that you're winning but we're not papering over the cracks," Bayliss said on Monday.
"We know there are some spots that haven't been cemented down. We're still looking for those guys to prove their worth at this level.
"Hopefully not before too long we do see some big scores from some of those guys."
However, du Plessis believes there are weak spots in both England and Australia’s batting line-ups which can be exploited by the quicks.
"It’s two quality teams, (but) with both there are opportunities (to make inroads) in the batting line-up you can make use of, you can get a few guys out, but both teams have got real quality in their bowling," the South African captain said.
Meanwhile, Root says he is proud of the way his side had come though periods of adversity throughout the four-Test series.
It was the Yorkshireman's first series as Test captain, with his team bouncing back from a 340-run defeat in the second Test to claim the 3-1 victory.
"I am really pleased with the way the series has gone," Root told Sky Sports.
"Credit to South Africa, they put us under pressure a number of times throughout but the way our guys have responded has been exceptional.
"We have had to overcome a number of different challenges, but the way we have played as a unit, especially the last two games, we have been brilliant.
"We have got a lot of hard work to do in the future but it was a great series.”
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