THE ASHES: FIFTH TEST PREVIEW

Welcome to the Betfair Hub’s official page for the 2021-22 Ashes series between Australia and England.

You will find expert tips and previews for the entire series plus each individual Test match right here.

Full markets for the Ashes are available now on the Betfair Exchange. Play your way this cricket season.

The Ashes Series – Fifth Test Market


PITCH AND WEATHER CONDITIONS

There have been only 13 tests at Blundstone Arena and none since 2016, while there is the added complexity that this match will be a day/night fixture. In Sheffield Shield matches at Hobart this season the runs have generally flowed, however in the previous season defending champions NSW were bowled out for just 32 so if overhead conditions prevail then wickets can fall in a hurry.

SUMMARY

Australia narrowly missed out on going 4-0 up in Sydney with some rain and last-day English determination combining to see the math finish as a draw. The hosts still dominated from the onset, starting with a first innings total of 8/416 declared after captain Pat Cummins surprisingly chose to bat at the toss with the recalled Usman Khawaja stroking a magnificent 137. When the visitors slumped to 4/33 in reply it looked as if the match was headed for a familiar outcome, but they recovered to post 294 despite Scott Boland (4/36) continuing his incredible initiation to test cricket. Khawaja was again the hero in the Aussies’ second dig, making an unbeaten 101 and in combination with all-rounder Cameron Green (74) they declared on 6/265, setting England 388 for victory or just over a day to bat out. Boland (3/30) was once again the pick of the bowlers but the Australians couldn’t quite wrap-up the match as the tourists finished on 9/270, avoiding defeat by the slimmest of margins. Following Khawaja’s twin tons, the pressure is on opener Marcus Harris to reclaim his place with Travis Head available again, while there are again likely to be changes to the pace attack despite the continued absence of Josh Hazlewood due to a side strain.

So England have at least avoided a whitewash and while the weather certainly played its part with multiple interruptions throughout the five days in Sydney, there were some encouraging signs of bravery and doggedness. It started with the return of veteran Stuart Broad who claimed 5/101 after playing just his second test of the series. However the real hero for the visitors was Jonny Bairstow with the strokemaker posting a brilliant 113 to rescue England’s first innings, alongside wounded all-rounder Ben Stokes (66). There should be a boost in confidence for left-arm spinner Jack Leach who picked up 4/84 in Australia’s second innings after his humbling start to the series at the Gabba. With the match needing to be saved, stylish opener Zak Crawley took a positive approach in his 77, while Stokes (60) and Bairstow (41) again combined for a vital partnership, eating up 228 balls between them which proved absolutely pivotal. Despite an improved showing there are likely to be several changes for the tourists with ‘keeper-batsman Jos Buttler ruled out, while there is significant doubt over both Stokes and Bairstow in addition to the likely return of seamer Ollie Robinson.

PLAYER IN SPOTLIGHT: STEVE SMITH

When the former skipper returned after his suspension with an incredible Ashes series in England in which he averaged 110.57, it looked like he was set to dominate the game for years to come. However what has followed since has been a bit underwhelming with only one century from 21 innings, averaging 39.20 and so he will be eager to finish the series with a flourish.

PLAYER IN SPOTLIGHT: Zak Crawley

Crawley’s test average of 28.30 is mediocre but doesn’t do justice to his talent as we saw in his second innings knock at the SCG as well as the supreme 267 he made against Pakistan 18 months ago. The opener’s issue is that he makes too many mistakes early in his innings and he will he challenged with the pink ball, but if he can negotiate the early stages he is one batsman who looks capable of a match-winning contribution for the visitors.


KEY STATS

  • England have failed to win their past 14 tests in Australia
  • There has been only one draw in the past 22 Sheffield Shield matches at Blundstone Arena
  • There has never been a draw in 18 day/night tests played across the world, nine of which have been played in Australia

VERDICT

The weather forecast once again looms large with the first day in particular looking like it will be impacted by rain, however as we saw in Sydney, the Australian bowlers are capable of moving the game along in limited time and with the added challenge of the pink ball under lights and a tired English side beset by injuries, I believe the home side will finish the series with a 4-0 scoreline.

BETTING STRATEGY

BACK – Australia – Win – for 2 units at $1.70+

One of the fiercest rivalries in world sport resumes this summer with Australia looking to retain the coveted Ashes urn on home soil against a beleaguered English side.

Starting at the hosts’ traditional fortress of the Gabba, the five-match series holds special significance for both teams with the Aussies unable to overcome an understrength Indian side last summer, while for England an unlikely series victory would go a long way towards erasing the pain of their previous two tours down under which have yielded nine losses from ten tests.


AUSTRALIA

It’s been 11 months since the home side last played a test match, however their side has a familiar feel to the one that was shocked by India last year. Within the squad there are generational talents such as new skipper Pat Cummins, fellow quick Josh Hazlewood and eccentric but prolific batsmen Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne. Pugnacious opener David Warner and seasoned off-spinner Nathan Lyon both boast enviable records despite some signs that they may be on the decline.

However, whether the Aussies can truly dominate this series may well depend on those at the fringes, such as fledgling all-rounder Cameron Green and misfiring left-armer Mitchell Starc, who could struggle to retain his place ahead of impressive youngster Jhye Richardson. That’s not to mention the baptism of fire facing either Alex Carey or Josh Inglis who will take over the wicket-keeping duties from ousted captain Tim Paine, who ultimately decided that the furore surrounding his off-field issues was going to prove too much of a distraction both for himself and the team.

ENGLAND

The visitors may not boast the depth of talent that their opposition does, however they do have proven match-winners in captain Joe Root, star all-rounder Ben Stokes and indefatigable paceman Jimmy Anderson. There’s no doubt that if the Three Lions are to give the series a shake then Root and Stokes will both need to score plenty of runs, however they won’t be able to do it all on their own. They will look to middle-order paid Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow, both of whom hit centuries on the last tour to Australia.

Amongst the bowling group Anderson and fellow veteran Stuart Broad are certainly familiar with the conditions they will face, though without a lot of success over the years it seems likely that England will require the likes of Ollie Robinson and Mark Wood to make an impact on their first tour Down Under.


AUSTRALIA PLAYER TO WATCH: PAT CUMMINS

  • Has become the first ever full-time Australian test captain to be a fast bowler.
  • Has averaged 20 or less with the ball in four of his past five test series’.
  • However, batting has fallen away – after averaging 20.68 with the bat from his first 33 test innings, he has averaged only 8.60 in his past 17 test innings.

ENGLAND PLAYER TO WATCH: JOE ROOT

  • Has been England’s highest run-scorer in three of their past four test series’, outscoring his nearest teammate by an aggregate of 976 runs.
  • However, has yet to score a century in Australia from 17 innings.
  • As captain has won only three of eight test series’ away from home.

TOP SERIES RUNSCORER

It’s very difficult to see any English player outside of Root scoring the most runs across both sides. However, given his questionable record in Australia we’d need a bigger price before getting with the English skipper. Smith and Labuschagne are the natural favourites for the Aussies, however the value appears to be with a resurgent Warner who will have gained plenty of confidence from being named player of the tournament in the T20 World Cup. It’s worth noting that over the past two Australians summers he’s actually scored 286 runs more than Smith from two less matches.

TOP SERIES WICKET TAKER

This market is far more open given the likelihood of both sides to rotate their quicks – a policy that has been adopted by the visitors for some time now.

Nevertheless 39-year-old Jimmy Anderson has played more tests this year for England than anyone else bar Root, so it should come as no surprise that he is their leading wicket-taker. That said, much like his captain, an underwhelming record on these shores doesn’t lend itself to a lot of confidence. We’re yet to see how the extra burden of leadership may impact Australia’s Golden Boy Cummins, however any such position at least guarantees his place in the side and with his incredible recent record he’s the man we’ll be backing.


SERIES VERDICT

Australia are deserved favourites, though a lack of test cricket over the past year and last summer’s slip-up to India makes their outright price unappealing.

England’s own record in recent times isn’t anything to write home about but what is notable is that they’ve managed a draw in five of their past nine test series’, so we think there’s some value in a repeat of the 4-0 scoreline we saw four years prior.

BETTING STRATEGY

BACK – David Warner – Top Series Runscorer at $6.50+ for 1 unit

BACK – Pat Cummins – Top Series Wicket Taker at $4.00+ for 1 unit

BACK – Series Scores – Australia 4-0 at $8.00+ for 0.5 units


If you’re betting on The Ashes, bet against other punters. Not bookies. You’ll get better value on the Betfair Exchange.


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