It’s finally here! The 2021-22 Ashes series kicks of this Wednesday with the 1st Test to be played from the Gabba. Australia and England will reignite their fierce rivalry with the five match series that runs through to mid-January and we will have you covered with preview and betting tips for every Test!
Remember to check out our Cricket Tips page for regular updates throughout the Australian summer of cricket including nightly previews for the Big Bash League.
Australia vs England, The Gabba, Wednesday 8th December, 11.00am (AEDT)
We’ll delve deeper into our match preview including our betting tips later in the article, but to start, here is some team news and our predicted starting XI’s for the 1st Test at the Gabba.
Confirmed XI: David Warner, Marcus Harris, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Mitch Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood
It’s been a busy few weeks in the lead up to the 1st Test for the Australian outfit. After claiming an historic win in the T20 World Cup, the Aussies were in a swirling storm of selection issues, most notably of course the change of captaincy and eventual replacement of Tim Paine as the wicket-keeper in the side. Alex Carey will finally get his chance to don the gloves for the Australian Test team, while Pat Cummins will take over the mantle as captain.
Two of the top five spots in the batting order were up in the air for some time but have now been confirmed, with Marcus Harris set to join David Warner at the top of the order while Travis Head seems to have locked down the coveted No.5 spot over rival Usman Khawaja for now.
Mitch Starc has been named a starter for the Brisbane Test, but he also looks to be the first and only bowler in danger if the Aussie selectors want to make a change later in the series.
Predicted XI: Rory Burns, Haseeb Hameed, Dawid Malan, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler, Chris Woakes, Ollie Robinson, Mark Wood, Jack Leach (other potentials: Jonny Bairstow, James Anderson, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad)
The England XI for the 1st Test is yet to be confirmed but I think we can safely name at least nine of the starting XI. The top six looks to be pretty set in stone, with Haseeb Hameed having a decent last Test series and semi-cementing his spot at the top of the order alongside Burns. Dawid Malan has some experience on Australian pitches and should get the nod over Zak Crawley at No.3. Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope pick themselves in the middle order and with the vice captaincy next to his name, Jos Buttler will certainly get first crack behind the stumps over Jonny Bairstow.
The bowling contingent is where the questions really begin to be raised. In my opinion, Ollie Robinson and Chris Woakes are walk up starters. Robinson is by far their most in form paceman and the most suited to Australian pitches while Woakes provides them with quality swing bowling and handy lower order runs.
The final pace spot looks to be a battle between Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad and Mark Wood, while both spinners in Jack Leach and Dom Bess are also in contention for the final spot.
If there’s one thing I wish could have eventuated for this series and particularly for the Gabba Test, it would have been the fitness of Englishman Jofra Archer. The paceman would have given the travelling side a bowling attack capable of exploiting the most out of these Australian pitches, alas we will have to settle for Ollie Robinson, who I expect to have a massive impact in this series in the absence of Archer.
It’s the first Ashes series in a while where I expect Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson not to play big parts, an I think the English will be better off for it on Australian pitches. Their bowling attack looks solid enough with Robinson, Woakes, Wood and either one of the spinners, the real issue with the English lies in their top order.
Joe Root is the best Test batsman in the world at the moment, but outside of him, the English side have a bunch of guys that are completely unproven on Australian soil in the Test arena. When you compare the average of the English predicted top seven to their average in Australia it reads like this:
Burns 32.30 > N/A
Hameed 35.90 > N/A
Malan 28.62 > 42.56
Root 50.15 > 38.00
Stokes 37.05 > 34.88
Pope 32.17 > N/A
Buttler 33.33 > N/A
It’s a daunting list for England, who will likely play four players in their top seven who have ever played a Test in Australia, a place that is widely regarded as the hardest place to make runs as a tourist.
Compare that to the Australian top seven excluding Carey who hasn’t played a Test:
Warner 48.10 > 63.21
Harris 23.78 > 30.83
Labuschagne 60.81 > 72.55
Smith 61.80 > 67.72
Head 39.76 > 46.67
You read that right, the Aussies boast three players who average over 60 in Test match cricket on Australian soil, while Usman Khawaja, who I expect to play some sort of role in the series later on, also averages a whopping 52.97 at home.
The Aussie batting line-up just turns into a different beast at home, especially when the opposition team does not possess a world class, frontline spinner.
I think that’s the difference between these two sides. On their respective day, the pace attacks of both teams are both world class, but the Aussie batting line-up have shown the ability to win against top line pace attacks in Australia, the same can’t be said for their opposition.
Is Australia bat first, I would be comfortable placing a large wager on one of Smith, Labuschagne or Warner getting a first innings century and steering the Aussies to 350+. If they bowl first, I can easily see our pace attack riping through this English top order on a bouncy day one Gabba wicket.
Back Australia to win this one.
Marnus Labuschagne loves playing on his home ground at the Gabba. In three Test matches there, the Queenslander averages a ridiculous 99.75 runs with two hundreds and one fifty in just four innings. It is statiscally his favourite ground by a fair stretch, back the young gun to make first innings runs again here.
Ollie Robinson has exploded onto the Test scene over the last year and in my opinion, is now England’s most impactful bowler. He has played just five Tests in total but has already picked up 28 wickets at a very impressive average of 19.60. In those 10 bowling innings, he has been the top English wicket taker on four occasions.
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