The Ashes finally starts on Wednesday 10th July, and signals the start of just under seven (hopefully) magnificent weeks of Test cricket. England are the bookmakers pre series favourites in The Ashes betting for a series win, the latest live odds, and a free bet of £25.00 can be found here.
As is usually the case these days, the series will be contested over 5 Test matches. They are as follows….
1st Test, Trent Bridge, Nottingham, Wed 10th July – Sun 14th July.
2nd Test, Lord’s, London, Thur 18th July – Mon 22nd July.
3rd Test, Old Trafford, Manchester, Thur 1st Aug – Mon 5th Aug.
4th Test, Riverside Ground, Durham, Fri 9th Aug – Tues 13th Aug.
5th Test, Kennington Oval, London, Wed 21st Aug – Sun 25th Aug.
So far in the build up we have had plenty to talk about. Before Australia arrived, all the talk was of an easy series victory for England, with some even (sarcastically) predicting a 5-0 whitewash to England. This is never a possible outcome in my view, not least because of the good old British weather.
There has been plenty of further talking points, such as Australia apparently imploding during the ICC Champions Trophy with bar room brawls, and the changing of coach just a couple of weeks before the start of The Ashes.
Personally I have never bought into any of that. I believe the Aussie’s aren’t the shambolic outfit most of the British media would like to have us believe, and I also think that making Darren Lehmann the new coach could turn out to be a good decision.
I see this series being a lot closer than a lot of people think. I can see two things deciding it, the batting of both teams, and Graeme Swann.
Let me be clear, if both teams play to their potential, England win 3-1 or 3-0. If England’s batting misfires, or the Aussie batting picks up, it could be 2-1 to England, or maybe 2-2.
The Aussie seam attack is top class. On the right wicket this attack is well capable of ripping England’s batting apart…. as the England attack is equally capable of ripping through the Aussie batting on a given day.
In short, both teams seam bowling is top class and takes care of itself, this is why I see Graeme Swann as England’s main weapon. If England prepare seamers wickets, Australia have the bowlers to possibly match England in those conditions. If England prepare spin friendly wickets, Australia have no one to compare to Swann.
In the Ashes Betting, Swann is currently 11/2 to be the top Ashes bowler (of both sides), and is 11/4 to be the top English bowler, and I really think he could be the key man for England this summer. The recent improvement in the weather will have meant wickets drying up more, and that could also help Swann.
England’s batting hasn’t been at it’s best lately. I don’t think Nick Compton’s omission is a big loss run wise, but I am concerned about moving Joe Root up to open in his place. Root is clearly a great prospect who should have a bright and prosperous future in Test cricket.
Is his promotion up the order a touch premature though? I think it may be, and that concerns me a bit. Batting down the order was suiting Root, it goes back to that old saying for me…. if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
I do think that this could be a series for Kevin Pietersen. Despite his injury of late, I just think he will come into this series fresh and looking to prove a point. It will be his first home Test match since last summers shenanigans and he will be wanting to make amends. In the cricket betting, Pietersen is 7/2 to be top English batsman.
Alastair Cook and Ian Bell have little form to speak off, so it could well come down to Trott or Pietersen, for top English run scorer.
Onto the Aussies, and as I mentioned, the their pace attack is more than capable. One man who may not be too well known on these shores is James Pattinson, he has a brother Darren Pattinson, who played one Test match for England (against South Africa) back in 2008, you may remember him.
Pattinson is a serious bowler, the bookmakers seem to be aware of this as they have him as 9/4 favourite to be top Aussie bowler, the bookies seem to have done their homework here in my view.
Shane Watson could be their vital man with the bat. Michael Clarke is obviously the stand out performer for Australia with the bat, but Clarke can’t keep single handedly carrying the batting for Australia. He will need support from somewhere, and I think Watson could be the man.
Watson could be the one who benefits the most from the appointment of Darren Lehmann. Lehmann has already backed Watson by declaring he will go back to opening, and I think having a coach who clearly believes in him, and is prepared to publicly back him, will give Watson the confidence he needs.
Recent form from both sides has been patchy. England struggled badly in New Zealand earlier this year, before completing a fairly easy home series win over the Kiwi’s a couple of months later. It was hardly vintage stuff in either series though, and should give the Aussies some belief they can cause an upset here.
Australia meanwhile lost 4-0 away in India in their last Test series last February/March, but they know conditions in England are going to be very different, so I wouldn’t place too much emphasis on that result. The series previous to that saw the Aussies comfortably beat Sri Lanka 3-0 in Australia six months ago.
I think this will be a close series with England just edging it 2-1 or 3-1. I think Graeme Swann will be key for England, and they will need a couple of batsmen to start firing.
Australia will be rejuvenated under Darren Lehmann, and I think could push this closer than people expect. If ever a sports team needed one of it’s own, surely the Aussie cricket team is it. If England are slightly off the boil, or a couple of big hitters are off key, then make no mistake, this Aussie team could be a threat.
In the outright winner Ashes betting, England are 1/3 favourites. Australia are 4/1 and a drawn series is 6/1.
The odds for the 1st Test again see England as favourites, at 4/5. While Australia and the draw can both be backed at 3/1.