The Ashes Odds, Tips and Expert Previews

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With the urn secured after a pulsating win at Old Trafford, Australia will now turn their attention to capturing a series win against England when they clash in the fifth test at The Oval, starting on Thursday.

England

The match followed a familiar pattern for England as they lost the toss for the third time in four matches only to take an early advantage thanks to Stuart Broad (3/97) knocking over both openers before they ran squarely into the juggernaut that is Steve Smith.

The Aussies recoved from 2/28 to rack up 8/497 declared as Ben Stokes (0/66) struggled to replicate his Headingley heroics.

In reply, half-centuries to opener Rory Burns (81) and captain Joe Root (71) had the hosts well placed at 2/166 but the middle and lower order failed to fire as they were dismissed for 301, surrendering a 196-run lead.

When Australia came to bat again, Broad (2/54) once more accounted for the openers and with excellent support from Jofra Archer (3/45) they had the visitors rocking at 4/44 before Smith intervened again to take Australia to 6/186 with a second declaration setting England 383 to win, or more likely just over a day to bat out.

At 2/0 and then 5/93 it seemed that Australia were in for a quick kill but a fighting half-century to opener Joe Denly (53) complemented by some dogged lower-order resistance from Jos Buttler (34 off 111 balls) and Craig Overton (21 off 105 balls) ensured the match would go into the final hour before the away side emerged victorious, bowling England out for 197.

Changes are likely for The Oval with Jason Roy under severe pressure to retain his place in the middle order with all-rounder Sam Curran under consideration, while Chris Woakes could also return in place of Overton.

Australia

After their capitulation in Leeds, there was joy and relief for Australia as they became the first team to retain the Ashes in England since 2001. For that achievement, they largely have Smith to thank with his immense innings of 211 underpinning that monstrous first innings total.

Crucially, Smith received stoic support from the in-form Marnus Labuschagne (67), captain Tim Paine (58) and the recalled Mitchell Starc (54 not out) who enjoyed some late hitting in the lead up to the declaration.

With the ball, Josh Hazlewood starred in England’s first innings, capturing 4/57, while fellow quicks Pat Cummins and Starc claimed three wickets each.

When the Aussies lost four wickets in the first 14 overs of their second innings there was a sense that England were fighting their way back into the match but Smith again stood tall with a counter-punching 82 which made up 44% of the visitors’ total.

In what became a tense and nerve-racking final innings, Cummins was absolutely superb for Australia, making the initial in-roads late on day four and early on day five to finish with 4/43, while captain Tim Paine bounced back from his personal disappointment at Headingley as he shuffled his bowlers astutely, crucially bringing on the leg-spin of Labuschagne to break a stubborn ninth-wicket stand.

Despite seven single-figure scores in the series opener, David Warner is likely to be retained, but there could be more changes to the pace attack with James Pattinson and Peter Siddle hopeful of a recall, while there could even be a debut for Michael Neser.

The Oval

Generally considered one of the flatter wickets in the country, The Oval has seen at least one total in excess of 400 in seven of the past eight tests there, although only one of those eight tests finished in a draw.

England have a mixed record at the ground, winning three of their past seven matches with captain Root averaging an impressive 51.40 from six matches.

Key Stats

  • When batting first at The Oval England have passed 300 in their first innings on nine of the past 11 occasions.
  • Australia have drawn two of their past six tests away from home.
  • Australia haven’t won back-to-back tests in England since 2001.
  • Half of the County Championship matches played at The Oval this season have finished in draws.
  • There has been at least one total in excess of 400 in seven of the past eight tests at The Oval.
  • However, only one of those eight tests finished in a draw.

The Verdict

Having gone ahead 2-1, Australia are now firm favourites to claim the series ahead of an English win, while the draw is a distant third option which does raise some eyebrows.

In the lead-up to the fourth test, there were queries over Australia’s mentality, having suffered that heart-breaking defeat at Headingley, but now it is more a question of motivation with the Ashes secured but the series still up for grabs.

There’s certainly no reason to oppose Smith in any situation and ominously he is starting to find more support plus one wonders how long Warner will stay out of the runs, especially given that he tends to excel in dead-rubbers.

What does make us a little bit nervous about this Australian price is the possibility that they could shuffle around their pace bowlers with both Cummins and Hazlewood crucial to their success thus far whilst off-spinner Nathan Lyon continues to struggle for penetration.

Ultimately England haven’t been able to match it with Australia’s premier batsman and bowlers, however, there have been some success stories with Stokes a world-class all-round option, opener Burns showing plenty of promise and skipper Root amassing some useful contributions provided he can get off the mark.

What is of more concern is their bowling attack outside of Broad with Archer unable to make an impact in the first innings at Manchester, while they still lack a proven slow-bowling option. But one area you cannot question with England is their fight, having pulled off a miracle at Headingley and pushing the Aussies all the way at Old Trafford.

With all that in mind the draw price certainly captures our attention. There has already been one draw in the series, albeit largely impacted by weather, while the last two fourth innings efforts from England speak to a team capable of battling it out if they find themselves behind, which they have done frequently throughout the series.

Neither team may be blessed with the strongest batting line-up but there is no stopping Smith, while a handful of other strokemakers from both sides seem to be gradually improving. There is also the possibility that key bowlers are rested.

Then we have the pitch which is historically favoured by batsmen and with half of the County Championship games played there this season finishing in stalemates we have more recent evidence that the surface is still without too many demons.

Overall I find it difficult to see the draw not trading shorter, however, I don’t quite have the gumption to see the position through all the way, so with tests at The Oval generally producing results after plenty of runs I’ll look to trade out and have a nice green number next to all three results.

Betting Strategy

BACK to LAY – Draw at 6.60 or bigger for 1 unit (trade out at 3.75 or better).

After the stupendous effort by Ben Stokes at Headingley, the series is now delicately poised at 1-1 going into the Fourth Test between Australia and England at Old Trafford which begins on Wednesday.

England

The hosts may have recovered from an impossible position but they actually begun the match well on top, dismissing an Australian batting line-up shorn of Steve Smith for just 179 with emerging quick Jofra Archer continuing to make an impression with a pernicious 6/45.

However despite finding themselves batting under sunny skies on day two England proceeded to put together one of their most horrific efforts with the bat, knocked over for a paltry 67 with Joe Denly (12) the only player to reach double-figures.

When Archer suffered cramps in Australia’s second innings it looked like a tall task for the home side to get back into the match but Stokes began his herculean effort with a tireless spell of 3/56 off 24.2 overs which helped to restrict the Aussies to 246, though a target of 359 still looked incredibly imposing, particularly given their first innings display.

That task seemed even more distant when they slumped to 2/15 before a 126-run stand between captain Joe Root (75) and Denly (50) gave them some hope with Denly’s dismissal late on day three bringing Stokes to the crease.

Root also perished early on day four and with wickets consistently falling around him, Stokes was joined by number 11 Jack Leach with 73 still required for victory. That was when the star all-rounder decided to explode, hitting eight sixes on his way to a truly memorable 135 not out that saw England sneak home by one wicket in an unforgettable finish.

The Three Lions were hoping to welcome back spearhead Jimmy Anderson however he has succumbed to a calf injury and will miss the remainder of the series, while Denly is set to be elevated to open the batting with the struggling Jason Roy to move down to the middle order.

Australia

Australia will be wondering how the match and potentially the series got away from them after dominating for large periods nut finding themselves unable to land the killer blow.

At the start of the match there was a welcome return to form for opener David Warner (61) who combined with Marnus Labuschagne (74) to put the Aussies in a position of strength at 2/136 before an all-too-familiar collapse.

Josh Hazlewood was the star with the ball during England’s monumental capitulation, with the lanky seamer capturing 5/30, while Pat Cummins also chipped in with 3/23.

Although it was the conclusion to the match that will scar the visitors, they will also be frustrated that they couldn’t build on a series of starts in their second innings with the bat with only Labuschagne (80) recording a significant contribution as the Aussies missed the chance to compile an unassailable lead.

Nevertheless they still had plenty to defend and another high-quality display from Hazlewood (4/85) appeared to have them on the verge of retaining the urn before dropped catches, missed run outs, poor reviews and Stokes’ brilliance all combined to take the game away in cruel fashion.

Perhaps of biggest concern to the Australians will be the form of Nathan Lyon who since his match-winning effort at Edgbaston has returned the unflattering figures of 5/286.

However on the positive side Australia will be roused by the return of Steve Smith with Marcus Harris, Usman Khawaja and Matthew Wade locked in a three-way battle to retain their spots following Labuschagne’s sterling form.

There could also be further changes in the pace department with Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc hopeful of recalls.

Old Trafford

After overcoming the hosts at England’s self-proclaimed fortress at Edgbaston, Australia will need to again prevail at a ground favoured by the home side with England unbeaten at Old Trafford since 2001, winning seven of their past eight tests there.

However, the hosts will dearly miss Anderson as he has claimed 28 wickets at an average of just 21.78 in test matches at his home ground.

Key Stats

  • England haven’t lost a test at Old Trafford since 2001.
  • However, Australia haven’t lost a test at Old Trafford since 1981.
  • England have won only one of their past four home tests against Australia.
  • Australia’s loss at Headingley was the first in their last nine tests against England.
  • England have only two batsmen averaging above 30 and one bowler averaging under 20 in the series.
  • Australia have three batsmen averaging above 30 and two bowlers averaging under 20 in the series.

The Verdict

After their astonishing victory in the third test, England are favoured to take a series lead at Manchester with an Australian win still decidedly shorter than the draw.

The big question around Australia seems to be whether they can recover mentally and emotionally having let the urn slip through their fingers on that final day at Old Trafford.

Their lack of composure under pressure is worth noting, however the return of Smith is a significant fillip, while their bowling attack continues to create regular chances, even if their batting remains largely unreliable.

One of the criticisms of the visitors has been their reliance on Smith but so far England have also leant heavily on a precious few with Stokes single-handedly keeping them in the series after some individual brilliance by Archer on the first day in conjunction with his fearsome bowling at Lord’s that kept Australia’s prolific run-scorer out of the third test.

The conditions at Old Trafford are a key advantage, however given what they’ve served up so far I’m not sure England can justify such warm favouritism.

Betting Strategy

BACK to LAY – Australia at 2.64 or bigger for 1 unit (trade out at 1.70 or better).

 

Following a fascinating draw at Lord’s, Australia remains 1-0 up in the series as both sides prepare for the short turnaround to the third test at Headingley, beginning on Thursday.

England

After the first day was completely washed out, England were sent in to bat at the home of cricket and found themselves in some early bother at 2/26 before another dogged half-century to opener Rory Burns (53) steered them out of trouble.

However Burns struggled for support and the hosts were eventually bowled out for just 258 with ‘keeper-batsman Jonny Bairstow the only other member of England’s batting unit to raise the bat with a counter-punching 52.

England’s new ball bowlers didn’t quite enjoy the success of their counterparts, however they chipped away to have the Aussies 5/102 before some low-order runs lifted them almost to parity, dismissed for 250 as veteran Stuart Broad (4/65) continued his impressive series.

England again lost early wickets, slumping to 2/9 before a superb 115 to Ben Stokes lifted them to 5/258 declared. That left Australia with 48 overs to survive and there were some nervous moments as they scraped to 6/154 with Archer and Jack Leach both claiming three wickets.

With only a few days between test matches, it is unlikely that Jimmy Anderson will be risked at Leeds, however England may choose to bring in seam-bowling all-rounder Sam Curran.

Australia

It was a brave decision by captain Tim Paine at the toss to elect to field first, a decision that did not look totally justified when England reached 2/76 at lunch.

Australia’s bowlers maintained impressive lengths and claimed wickets at regular intervals with Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon all picking up three wickets apiece, though Peter Siddle (1/48) was desperately unlucky, having two catches dropped off his bowling.

Once again the visitors’ effort with the bat was underpinned by the indefatigable Steve Smith who compiled a brilliant 92, overcoming a severe blow to the head off Jofra Archer that forced him to retire hurt on 80 before later being substituted out of the match under the concussion rule.

Aside from a fluent 36 to first-drop Usman Khawaja, the remainder of Australia’s batsmen again looked unconvincing against England’s bowling attack. When the home side batted again Siddle finally got some reward for his persistence, picking up 2/54 with Pat Cummins also claiming 3/35.

Batting last the Aussies again made a false start, slipping to 2/19 but an 85-run stand between substitute Marnus Labuschagne (59) and vice-captain Travis Head (42 not out) ensured that they held on for a draw.

Although all three quicks starred at different points throughout the match there is every chance that James Pattinson will win a recall at Headingley, but the big news is that Smith is every chance of missing the match with that concussion given the short turnaround to this test.

Headingley

England don’t have the strongest record at Headingley, winning only three of their past ten tests there, whilst they haven’t won back-to-back tests at the ground since 2007.

However their most recent performance there resulted in a thumping innings victory over Pakistan with Broad claiming match figures of 6/66.

Key Stats

  • England have won only three of their past ten tests at Headingley.
  • England haven’t lost a home Ashes series since 2001.
  • Australia have won only one of their past five matches across all formats at Headingley.
  • Australia have lost only one of their past seven tests when batting first.
  • In his last 14 tests Steve Smith is averaging 104.67 in Australia’s first innings of the match and in his last eight tests against England he is averaging 136.86 in Australia’s first innings of the match.
  • During Steve Smith’s suspension Australia averaged 189 in the first innings of the match in away tests.

The Verdict

With Smith looking likely to miss the test England have been installed as still relatively narrow favourites over Australia, though otherwise the prices for the third test largely reflect those that were sighted prior to the adjustment for the forecasted day one downpour at Lord’s.

What’s become clear is that both sides have quite distinct strengths and weaknesses, however that does not necessarily make it any easier to predict the outcome of the match.

Australia have a collection of pace bowlers and have adopted a clear strategy that they will pick their attack based on the conditions, though previous spearhead Mitchell Starc is yet to feature.

Nathan Lyon complements the quicks excellently, however there remains serious question marks over the output of the Aussies’ batting unit outside of Smith.

England’s batting also looks brittle and they don’t have the luxury of their premium player in form with captain Joe Root returning twin failures at Lord’s.

But they have undoubted depth with Chris Woakes making useful contributions down the order, while unfancied incumbents Burns and Joe Denly have showed promising signs.

As far as the bowling attack is concerned they may lack a genuine match-winner in the spin department, however the pace of Archer rounds out a formidable line-up which makes it tempting to back them at these odds, however their poor record at Headingley is a factor that cannot be overlooked.

Speaking of Headingley there is again some inclement weather forecast on the first day and whilst it may not be enough to see the draw prices drop as dramatically as it did for the second test, it’s enough for us not have the draw offside and just adds further uncertainty to what has already been an unpredictable series.

When faced with an unreliable series of circumstances it feels like time to reach for some positive assurance and that is generally provided via the wide blade of Steve Smith’s bat. Smith’s form has been nothing short of incredible, particularly in the first innings of a match and particularly against England.

A one-year suspension seems to only have strengthened his resolve, as going back 14 tests he has averaged a phenomenal 104.67. However he has been even better against the old enemy where his average in the first innings of the match reads 136.86 from his last eight against England, top-scoring in five of those.

That searing blow from Archer was enough to rule him out of the second innings and looks likely to rule him out of this test, which means that opposing Australia’s batting unit becomes the most reliable course of action.

Betting Strategy

 LAY – Australia First Innings Runs 200 or more at 1.75 or better for 1 unit.

After a stunning come-from-behind win in the opening encounter at Edgbaston, Australia will look to take another step towards retaining the Ashes by overcoming England in the second test at Lord’s, starting on Wednesday.

England

Despite losing the toss and their opening bowler Jimmy Anderson to a calf injury after only four overs, the hosts still began the first test well, reducing Australia to 8/122 midway through the second session with Stuart Broad picking up the slack, claiming 5/86 off 22.4 overs.

However, an inability to knock over the tail swiftly cost England as the Aussies scrapped their way to 284, although England soon took control with the bat reaching 1/154 thanks to a maiden ton from opener Rory Burns (133) and a streaky half-century to captain Joe Root (57).

A further 50 to all-rounder Ben Stokes and a pesky 65-run tail-end partnership of their own from Broad (29) and Chris Woakes (37 not out) extended England’s total to 374 and they again looked well on top when the Aussies slumped to 2/27 in their second innings, still 63 in arrears. But it was at this point that the absence of Anderson begun to really show as Australia batted intelligently on a slow and dry pitch to rack up 7/487 declared and completely change the course of the match.

That left England with an unlikely 398 to chase, or more likely 97 overs to survive, but they could do neither, rolled for just 146 inside 53 overs with Woakes (37) the only batsman to pass 30. Anderson has been ruled out of the second test with Jofra Archer likely to debut, though that may not be the only change for the home side with all-rounder Moeen Ali looking woefully out of form and coming under pressure from left-arm tweaker Jack Leach.

Australia

Australia’s momentous comeback win was only possible due to a couple of gems from returning runs-machine Steve Smith. In his first test since being suspended following the Cape Town affair, the former skipper rescued the visitors’ first innings, scoring a sublime 144 out of 284, though he did get some crucial late-order support from Peter Siddle (44) and Nathan Lyon (12 not out) which allowed the Aussies to add 162 for the last two wickets.

Whilst perhaps not as impressive, his second innings knock of 142 was equally valuable, as he came to the crease with Australia still trailing and the ball still new. In that second dig, he found more support from his fellow batsmen, firstly Travis Head who ground out an impressive 51 and then the recalled Matthew Wade who celebrated his first test as a specialist batsman with a punchy 110 which took England completely out of the game.

In the bowling department, Nathan Lyon took the plaudits for a decisive 6/49 on the final day, making the most of a worn fifth-day pitch, while Pat Cummins adapted his lengths judiciously to finish with 4/32. However, both bowlers also kept Australia in the game in England’s first innings, picking up three wickets each and crucially conceding only around 2.5 runs an over.

Siddle was also unlucky with the ball, bowling tirelessly in both innings for match figures of 2/80, though Australia may still choose to make changes to their bowling attack with Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood both amongst the wickets in the tour match against Worcestershire, however opening batsman Cameron Bancroft is expected to be spared the axe despite twin failures in the test and tour match.

Lord’s

The narrative around Lord’s is that it is favoured by the visiting team which is true to an extent given that Australia have lost only twice there in 85 years, however England’s record is not nearly as bad as made out, winning four of their past five tests there and two of their past three against Australia.

Curiously the team bowling first has won three of the past four tests at Lord’s, while in County Cricket this season the team bowling first is unbeaten which suggests that day one could be the toughest time to bat.

Key Stats

  • England haven’t lost back-to-back home tests since 2008
  • England have won four of their past five tests at Lord’s.
  • Australia haven’t won back-to-back tests in England since 2001.
  • Australia have lost only two tests at Lord’s since 1934 but those two losses have come in their last three tests against England.
  • Australia has won only one of their past eight tests when bowling first.
  • The side bowling first has won three of the past four tests at Lord’s and is unbeaten there in County Cricket this season.

The Verdict

The market is finding it difficult to separate the two sides with the visitors slender favourites ahead of England and the draw, though shorter than the first test, still comfortably considered the least likely result.

Firstly, are England good enough to bounce back and square the series? On the surface there would appear to be issues with their batting and slow bowling in particular, however, the impossible inclusion of Leach would improve if not solve the latter.

With regards to their batting, there were some bright spots, most notably Burns’ maiden ton which should give him confidence but also half-centuries to Root and Stokes, while even Jason Roy looked relatively comfortable at the crease during his second innings before his brainless dismissal. Also before we write off England took quickly, we must remember that this is much the same squad that overcame a strong India side 4-1 at home last summer so you won’t find me opposing the hosts here.

It’s hard to be too critical of Australia’s win, though there were some extenuating circumstances. They won what proved to be a crucial toss played on a surprisingly slow and dry pitch that enhanced their advantage in the spin bowling department, though perhaps the biggest advantage they gained was that their opponents virtually played the entire match with ten men.

There is also the topic of their reliance on Steve Smith though this is a double-edged sword – it’s generally not healthy to be depending on one player to contribute so much but then history suggests that he will not relent and as we saw in the second innings, his own run feats help to aid those of teammates who should gradually improve in these conditions.

The draw shapes as an interesting prospect, firstly because some inclement weather forecast for later in the test may have an impact but also because Lord’s, whilst generally a result ground, is not immune to high scores – in County Cricket this year there have already been a couple of totals north of 400 while in test matches 350 has been consistently breached, including four years ago when the Aussies amassed a colossal 8/566 with Smith stroking a double-ton.

Considering all the factors mentioned above it’s difficult to have Australia so short. There are various ways in which either England or the draw could trade significantly shorter and given the Aussies’ poor record on foreign soil I’ll take more convincing that they deserve to be jollies here. Nevertheless, it’s difficult to go all-in against Smith or indeed place complete faith in England’s batting so my strategy will be to oppose the Australians at starting price then look to trade out and secure a profit.

Betting Strategy

 LAY to BACK – Australia at 2.36 or better for 1 unit (trade out at 3.50 or bigger).

Having captured their first-ever World Cup, England will now turn their attention to reclaiming the urn against familiar rival Australia, starting with the first test which begins on Thursday at Edgbaston.

England

Whilst The Three Lions converted their long-standing 50-over superiority into tournament success, their recent form in the longest format of the game can only be described as mixed.

Off the back of away defeats to Australia and New Zealand, the test side arrived home last summer and could only draw with Pakistan before out-gunning India, though the scoreline of 4-1 probably flattered the hosts.

An impressive whitewash of Sri Lanka in the sub-continent was then followed by an abject series defeat against the West Indies. In the lead-up to this series, they were bowled out for just 85 against Ireland before claiming an ultimately comfortable 143-run victory courtesy of skittling their neighbours for just 38 in the final innings.

England’s top-order remains their primary issue with white-ball specialist Jason Roy parachuted in to open alongside left-hander Rory Burns, while captain Joe Root looks set to move to the first drop, allowing Joe Denly to push down to number four.

Their middle to lower-order is where they could hold a key advantage with the likes of Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow lurking, while their pace attack is well suited to the conditions led by veterans Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad.

It appears a side strain experienced throughout the World Cup will delay Jofra Archer’s debut, leaving Chris Woakes, Sam Curran and Olly Stone to jostle for the final fast-bowling spot, while Moeen Ali is the only specialist spinner in the squad and will add further depth to the batting unit.

Australia

For the Aussies, it will be their first test match in six months, following a straight-forward 2-0 series win over Sri Lanka that was preceded by their first-ever test series loss at home to India. However, they do welcome back their two key pillars in the batting order, former leadership duo Steve Smith and David Warner who have of course been suspended since the Cape Town sandpaper fiasco.

The third culprit of that doomful test, Cameron Bancroft, could also return after edging out Joe Burns from the squad, though he must beat out incumbent Marcus Harris for the right to open alongside Warner.

Usman Khawaja seems set to recover from a hamstring injury to take his place at number three and will be joined by Smith and new vice-captain Travis Head in the middle-order. Like Burns, a century against Sri Lanka was not enough to save Kurtis Patterson’s place in the side with Marnus Labuschagne’s performances in county cricket likely to earn him a recall ahead of all-rounder Mitchell Marsh and the red-hot Matthew Wade.

Keeper Tim Paine will captain his first Ashes test and lean heavily on a bowling attack comprising Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon, with the last spot seemingly a battle between speedsters Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson.

Veteran Peter Siddle and duke-ball wizard Michael Neser provide cover in the pace-bowling department as Australia look to claim their first Ashes victory in England since 2001.

Edgbaston

Edgbaston has been the epitome of a happy-hunting ground for the hosts, unbeaten there in test matches since 2008 including wins in their last four matches.

England’s success at Birmingham is not just limited to test cricket, winning their last 11 matches there across all formats and the weather forecast suggests that rain is unlikely to play a significant part in this encounter.

Interestingly the team batting first is unbeaten in County Cricket at Edgbaston this season, underpinned by an average first innings total of 386.

Key Stats

  • England has won six of their past seven tests at home.
  • England hasn’t lost an Ashes series at home since 2001.
  • England has won their last 11 matches across all formats at Edgbaston, including their last four tests.
  • Australia has failed to win their last 10 matches at Edgbaston across all formats.
  • Australia hasn’t won a test series away from home since February 2016.
  • The side batting first is unbeaten in County Cricket at Edgbaston this season.

The Verdict

In familiar climes, England are favourites at just over even money, with an Australian win still strongly preferred by the market ahead of the draw.

Firstly we’ll deal with the draw which is a big price for a good reason – England’s last 14 tests have produced a result, as have 17 of Australia’s past 20.

With England’s batting line-up struggling against a modest Irish attack and the Australians similarly battling for runs in an intra-squad warm-up, it seems highly unlikely that a draw could be in contention without the intervention of weather so we’ll trust the meteorologists on this one and put a line through the stalemate.

The visitors, it must be said, look short given their wretched record on foreign soil, particularly here in England. Granted they boast a highly-proficient bowling attack and are boosted by the return of their two most prolific batsmen, though it can be expected that both may take some time to find their groove again.

The ground is also a major obstacle with the Aussies struggling across all formats at Edgbaston, most recently the venue of their World Cup semi-final surrender against the English.

That leaves us with the home side who certainly have no issues playing in Birmingham, unbeaten in all formats there since 2014 and in test matches since 2008. There are serious question marks over their top-order, however, captain Root shifting to the first drop is a positive move, while their middle-order provides both depth as well as the ability to change the course of a match in a session. Their pace bowlers are not only prolific but highly experienced in the conditions so I’m expecting England to continue their surge from the World Cup and go up 1-0 in the series.

One additional point is that batting first seems a key advantage on this Edgbaston pitch so I’d be prepared to increase my stake if skipper Root calls correctly and elects to bat.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – England at 2.02 or bigger for 1 unit (2 units if they bat first).

Series Winner

The 2019 Ashes series pits together two fairly evenly-matched sides, both with fallible batting units and well-equipped bowling attacks who will do battle in conditions that are expected to provide both swing and seam. England are deserved favourites, not having lost a series at home since 2014, while Australia’s issues on the road are well-documented, winning only one of their past six series overseas and not having won an away Ashes since 2001.

There is every chance we see a series similar to that of four years ago where England won 3-2 across five matches of extreme margins and dramatic batting collapses. However, whilst we shouldn’t expect too many giant scores, the weather can certainly intervene in the Old Dart which suggests that a drawn series looks good value here.

They may not have been five-test series but England have drawn three of their past nine test series on home soil and five of their past 18 overall so I’ll certainly be taking the bigger price about a stalemate.

Series Score

Our above prediction covers off a most-likely drawn series score of 2-2 at similar odds, but in keeping with the scenario that rain impacts one, if not two tests then it is worth exploring home victories by a score of 3-1 or 3-0. In their past 14 series of four or more tests, 3-1 has been the most common scoreline for England, coming on four occasions and all of them at home.

Meanwhile, 3-0 was how the 2013 Ashes finished up and is one of five occurrences of Australia not winning an overseas test in their past 12 series on feigns shores.

Top Series Batsman

Prior to the fateful series in South Africa, Steve Smith had been the top runscorer in three of his past four test series, including the notoriously difficult assignment of India away. He was also the top runscorer in the 2015 series, so whilst he hasn’t played a test for over 16 months he does have the burden of captaincy removed and will have prepared fastidiously for such a big occasion.

As a longer-priced option, it’s difficult to go past World Cup hero Ben Stokes who will be buoyed by his key role in England’s 50-over triumph but will also be keen to make amends for his absence from the last Ashes in Australia. The major obstacle to Stokes topping the batting charts is that he bats too low. However, he has been tried at number three previously and in any case, conditions are expected to be troublesome for the top-order against the new ball.

Top Series Wicket Taker

While all the focus will be on Jimmy Anderson’s final Ashes, it is his partner in crime Stuart Broad who is worth looking out for. Broad averages an impressive 26.01 in home tests against Australia and finished top wicket-taker four years ago, including an incredible 8/15 at Trent Bridge.

Injuries surrounding both Anderson and Jofra Archer only strengthen Broad’s claims. As far as the Australians are concerned it seems that Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson are competing for one spot, while Nathan Lyon will play more of a holding role which leaves with us with Pat Cummins and a rejuvenated Josh Hazlewood.

Although he proved his own fitness following a back complaint, Hazlewood was held back from the World Cup specifically for the Ashes so he can expect to get plenty of overs. His style should suit the English pitches as evidenced by his 16 wickets at 25.75 four years prior, just five wickets behind Broad despite playing one less match.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Series Winner Drawn Series at 7.60 or bigger for 1 unit

 BACK – Series Correct Score England 3-1 at 7.80 or bigger for 1 unit

 BACK – Series Correct Score England 3-0 at 25.00 or bigger for 0.5 units

 BACK – Steve Smith Top Series Batsman at 5.00 or bigger for 1 unit

 BACK – Ben Stokes Top Series Batsman at 16.00 or bigger for 0.5 units

 BACK – Stuart Broad Top Series Wicket Taker at 7.00 or bigger for 1 unit

 BACK – Josh Hazlewood Top Series Wicket Taker at 9.00 or bigger for 1 unit


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