Kevin Pietersen believes England's disappointing start to this winter's Ashes series underlines Australia's strength and highlights just how impressive last year's victory over them was.

Successive wins in Brisbane and Adelaide have put Australia in pole position to reclaim the Ashes they lost 14 months ago, a target they could achieve with victory in the third Test, starting at the WACA tomorrow.

England's struggles have attracted scorn, particularly their slide on the final day at the Adelaide Oval, prompting comparisons with one-sided Ashes campaigns of the past.

But Pietersen believes England have not been given enough credit for their triumph on home soil - and has found room for optimism in the way they played for the first four days in Adelaide.

"I don't think people realise how good it was to beat Australia in England," claimed the former Cannock batsman. "Everyone thought we'd come out here and it was going to be level-pegging but these blokes are a champion team, probably the best Australian team they've ever had, and they've come back doubly hard.

"Adelaide was fantastic for us for those first four days and we played magnificent cricket against this side in testing conditions."

Having battled so hard for the opening four days, however, England's capitulation to Shane Warne on the final morning enabled Australia to claim a six-wicket triumph.

"It was just two hours and if we can put that behind us, which I think we have done looking at the way we've gone about this week, if we put in five good days then we can spin a good result for us and the series," he insisted.

"We played a bad couple of hours but there's an opportunity for us to turn the series around and that's what we have to do."

Captain Andrew Flintoff admitted a desperate sense of dejection after the defeat and even the mentally positive Pietersen has struggled to come to terms with the events.

He admitted: "It was really difficult. I was in my bedroom that night thinking 'how the heck that could happen?'"

Once again the key duel in the middle will be between Hampshire teammates Pietersen and Warne, who needs only six more victims to become the first bowler in Test history to claim 700 wickets.

Pietersen received many messages during the 2005 series from Warne informing him he would be his 600th victim - a dubious honour which Marcus Trescothick claimed instead - but is yet to be greeted by similar banter this time.

He has been more successful than anyone apart from Brian Lara at handling Warne, with the exception of being bowled around his legs attempting a slog-sweep in the second innings at Adelaide.

But Pietersen intends to relish another battle with Warne, claiming: "I've always enjoyed facing Shane and I'll enjoy facing him this week but hopefully it will last longer than one ball. "

England are yet to formulate their XI, but left-arm spinner Monty Panesar is tipped to replace Warwickshire's Ashley Giles after sitting out the first two Tests of the series