LATEST score from the Ashes series: Australia 0 England 0.

Forgive me if I'm telling you something you already knew, but cricket fans could be excused if they thought Australia had retained the little urn before a ball had been bowled.

Yes, the Aussies are the overwhelming favourites to clinch the series with plenty to spare.

Australia's domination of world cricket is such that while they stand astride Ayers Rock, the other nations are still in base camp at Uluru. And Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath's proclamations that they would beat England 5-0 are due largely to the Aussies' desire to undermine the tourists before the series starts.

But haven't we been here before? Or, rather, weren't Australia in this position 12 months ago? Then, they were convinced they would beat New Zealand 3-0 in their three-Test series - only for the Kiwis to rattle the Aussies, who were relieved to emerge with a 0-0 draw.

So, maybe the first Ashes whitewash in more than 80 years is not the foregone conclusion many Down Under are predicting.

Steve Waugh has been a rare voice of reason to emanate from the Australia camp on the eve of the first Test at The Gabba.

He will not countenance talk of a 5-0 win, and why should he?

After more than a decade as the world's most indefatigable batsman, the first chinks are showing through in 37-year-old Waugh's armoury.

Seeing his brother dumped by the selectors will have hit him hard personally, as well as reminding him that he isn't indispensable.

And the prospect of bowling at Darren Lehmann will not fill England's attack with the same sort of dread that accompanied Mark Waugh's arrival at the crease.

Andy Bichel, too, is not the force that Brett Lee can be at the peak of his powers.

And with a bowling average of 38 in his 17 Tests since elbow surgery, and a chastening tour of England still fresh in the memory, Lee has not hit those heights for some time now. So, perhaps Australia aren't as phenomenal as they would have us believe. Yes, there is still McGrath and Warne, and the most destructive batsmen in the world in Adam Gilchrist.

And if we think Marcus Trescothick and Michael Vaughan are a successful opening partnership, then what does that make Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer?

But this is the strongest England team, injuries notwithstanding, that has played in an Ashes series since we last held the urn, in 1986-87. Having played Muttiah Muralitharan, Saqlain Mushtaq and Indian duo Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh so well in the last two years, why shouldn't England's batsmen finally conquer their fear of Warne? And the express pace of Simon Jones and Stephen Harmison, when he shakes off his shin splints, will cause the Australians a few uncomfortable moments at the crease.

Australia should win the series, and they most likely will do so.

But instead of remembering past Ashes disasters, England's players need only recall unheralded New Zealand's achievements last year. And see just how quickly talk of a whitewash can become hogwash