The fourth Ashes Test gets underway at Old Trafford tomorrow, with it still unclear whether England fans have come down from the incredible Headingley-highs provided by the incomparable Ben Stokes.
Stokes picked his side up and carried them on his back in a way few England batsman have done since, well, Ben Stokes in the World Cup final. England all of a sudden have a chance.
However, particularly having come within one delivery of retaining the Ashes in Leeds and boosted by the return of Steve Smith, Australia will be looking to strike back at the first opportunity.
Our cricket betting expert previews the fourth Ashes Test and gives you the best bets to look out for.
Stokes’ innings aside, winning a Test match after being dismissed for 67 in the first innings is a special achievement in itself. Joe Root’s side will know though, they have to bat better in the last two matches if they want to regain the Urn.
Jason Roy’s torrid time as an opener looks set to come to an end, with Joe Denly likely to make a straight swap with the Surrey man and go up to open. Roy has proven incapable of dealing with the full, swinging delivery and his Test career rests on whether or not he can produce down the order. I’m backing him to get himself a second Test fifty at 7/4.
Despite taking six wickets in Australia’s first innings, the bruising effects of his Test debut at Lord’s were clear to see for Jofra Archer. His pace was down from the mid-nineties to the mid-eighties at Headingley. As Archer rightly points out, he’s capable of taking wickets without bowling full-tilt but will offer a lot more of a threat for England if he can.
After a short break to recharge, I won’t be backing anyone except Archer to be England’s top wicket-taker in the match, despite the relatively short 9/4 price at Grosvenorsport.com.
Much of the Aussies’ selection headaches will also come from their batting line-up, with space required to bring Smith back in. Marnus Labuschagne has done more than enough to keep his place in the side since coming in as Smith’s concussion replacement at Lord’s. He’s made fifty in all three knocks since then, and will likely move up to three to make room for the returning Smith.
Usman Khawaja will be the batsman to miss out for Australia, after another troubled tour in English conditions. Of course, batting at three in any conditions is a test of a player’s technique and with just seven Tests under his name, it will be no different for Labuschagne. He’s 7/2 at Grosvenorsport.com for top Aussie run-scorer, with Steve Smith available at around 13/8.
Australia’s rotation policy has worked well amongst their seamers so far, with Mitchell Starc deemed unnecessary so far in the series. He could well get a game at Old Trafford, but I suspect Josh Hazelwood will be the dangerman for Australia. He took 9-115 on his return to the side and is 6/1 to be the top wicket-taker in the match.
Momentum should be with England after the result at Headingley, but they’ll have to bat better as a unit if they want to take a series lead.
Burns and Denly’s performance at the top of the order will be crucial for England. If they can build a solid platform, I’m backing England at 7/5.