England fast bowling legend Fred Trueman has backed Ian Bell's selection for the first Test against Bangladesh - and said he hopes the Warwickshire batsman scores a hundred.
But 74-year-old Trueman - the first man to take 300 Test wickets - was highly critical of the summer's international programme and the fact England were playing two "nonentity" games against Bangladesh before taking on the Australians.
And he said it was " absolutely ridiculous" that so many Australian cricketers were playing county cricket before the start of the Ashes series.
Twenty-three-year-old Bell was chosen ahead of Kent's Robert Key and Hampshire's Kevin Pietersen for tomorrow's game at Lord's after a fine start to the county season that has seen him score 516 runs at an average of 64.50.
Trueman said: "I spoke to Dennis Amiss and asked him what he was like and Dennis said 'he's a good player, Fred' so if Dennis Amiss says he's a good player that'll do for me.
"I wish him luck in the Test match and I hope he makes a hundred."
But he added: "I think the whole set-up is wrong. I think that we're playing two nonentity Test matches against Bangladesh when we should have been getting into the Australians early and then playing Bangladesh after the Ashes series, so I think they've got it backwards.
"Also, I don't know how many Australians are over here playing in our county game getting all the experience in English conditions that they want. I think it's absolutely ridiculous.
"On top of that, I don't know how many players they're bringing but they've got others here that they can just pull out of the county circuit and play them, and all we're doing is giving them all the practice they want," he said.
Shane Warne and Simon Katich, who have both been playing for Hampshire, and Brad Hodge, of Lancashire, are all in the Australian Test squad for the summer.
Ten other Australians are on the books of English counties, including Mike Hussey who is captaining Durham and has been included in the Australian one-day squad.
Trueman, who published his memoirs As It Was last year, said he hoped Kevin Pietersen would do well when he finally got a chance in the Test side.
"From what I've seen of him, if someone makes the ball move around a bit I think he'll struggle," he said. "It's like saying oneday slogging is five furlongs and playing in a Test match is two-andahalf miles, that's the difference," he said.
"I wish him luck, I hope he does well, but he'll realise he just can't walk into a Test side, you've got to fight for it, which is how it should be."
Many observers believe this summer's Ashes series will be the closest since England last won the famous little urn in 1987, but Trueman said it would be a real battle.
"I hope we do win, of course, but it will be hard work.
"The favourites must be Australia but we musn't think that, we must go into the games positively and think we can beat them," he said.
* As It Was - the memoirs of Fred Trueman is published by Pan Macmillan, priced £7.99.