The wait is over as the battle for the “Ashes” is upon us with arch enemies Australia and England about to go to war in a five-match series. If this series can live up to the hype and provide a taste of the drama we’ve seen in previous Ashes battles, then we’re in for plenty of entertainment.
England are the warm favourites and rightly so - currently 1.92 to win 1st Test and $1.42 to take the series on Betfair. They’ve been one of the world’s most consistent teams of the past few years, are well led by Alistair Cook and have match winners in all departments. They are also playing at home which is a big advantage.
On the other hand, the Aussies have been a rabble for some time - huge turnover of players, poor performances on the field, drama off the field, and even a sacking of their head coach. Although the change of coach may actually be a positive with lots of support from players, fans and media alike for Australian legend Darren “Boof” Lehmann. He’ll bring the boys into line with some old school coaching and is the perfect choice to steady what was a sinking ship.
Lehmann has already announced changes to the batting line up with 35-year old Chris Rogers getting the call up for just his 2nd Test match, despite 20,000 first-class runs under his belt. His experience in English conditions and temperament will provide the perfect foil for Shane Watson who has also been elevated back to the top of the order. He showed he was back to his best with some devastating form in the warm-up matches and I think there’s some value about him at $11 to be the leading run scorer in the series.
Ed Cowan will probably slot in at 3, Michael Clarke will be a rock at number 4, with Phil Hughes getting his last chance to perform at 5. I feel the technique of Hughes will get found out in English conditions. The number 6 spot will be interesting, but I feel that David Warner will get a reprieve and take that spot ahead of Steve Smith. It’s a close call, but Warner coming in at 6 could be perfect for him and the team. Much like Adam Gilchrist used to do, Warner can come in late in the day when the ball is old and the bowlers tired and he can just pound them into the ground. I think it will work, along with Brad Haddin coming in with similar experience and aggression at number 7.
Bowling remains the Australians' strength with great depth through the squad. I expect Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson to lead the Aussie charge, with Peter Siddle to get the nod just ahead of Ryan Harris.
However the key to the match will be the spin brigade with Nathan Lyon serviceable for the Aussies but clearly inferior to England’s Graeme Swann. He will cause much grief to Australia’s left handers, and with hot weather and a dry pitch expected, we will see Swann cause plenty of concerns. So much so, that I like Swann for the most wickets in the series at $6.00 at Centrebet.
England’s pace army of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and likely Tim Bresnan are also dangerous. Anderson is a gun and if there are some clouds around, these guys will make the cherry hoop. If the Aussie openers can survive Anderson, I feel Broad and Bresnan generally bowl too short, so I think the Aussies can make some inroads.
England’s batting line up looks strong on paper, but at the top of the order they’ve made a change with Joe Root set to open for the first time with captain Cook. Root has had a good start to his career, but it’s a bit different opening in the Ashes compared to being protected in the middle order against the Kiwis. I think Root could have a rough time, and if the Aussies can get him early, it exposes Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen who are the danger men of the order. If they take control of the series, then it’s all over. Forget about it. They need to be out cheaply. Ian Bell comes in at 5 and he has developed from a solid grinder, to an elite batsman which is also worrying for the Aussies. Jonny Bairstow has plenty yet to prove at number 6 while Matt Prior is a dangerous proposition at number 7.
That batting line up means business, but if the Aussies can get through them, the English tail is a little long. Bresnan is hit or miss, while the others haven’t shown much form in recent times. You have to give an edge to the Aussies with the batting ability of the tail.
In England, it often comes down to the weather but it’s going to be hot in Trent Bridge so no concerns there for the 1st Test. So for this reason, there should be a result unless the bats get right on top and dominate. One could argue that laying the draw at $4.10 is a solid play, but I would wait and see what happens early. There might be some early wickets with the new ball, but I think whoever wins the toss will bat and should be able to post a good 1st innings total. The wickets will tumble later in the game as the pitch dries out and the spinners become more effective, so laying the draw after Day 2 after the price has shortened might be the play.
Advantage is definitely with England, but they are too short to find any value. The Aussies will certainly be competitive, and in fact, will have periods of dominance. They bring an inexperienced squad, but it might be the stage for a few of them to shine. Australia at $4.10 for the 1st Test looks attractive, but I’ll be sitting back in this one to see what unfolds.
Instead I’ll be placing a couple of future bets, with the series score of 3-1 the most inviting:
Series leading run scorer
Shane Watson - $11 at Betfair
England 3-1 - $7.50 at Centrebet
Take note: The above tip is simply the author’s opinion, so bet at your own risk and always bet responsibly. Happy punting!
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