Questions about the strength of the England top five persist

The last time England ventured Down Under in 2013, they surrendered the Ashes so spectacularly the tour was dubbed a ‘Pomnishambles’.

The Aussies have already vowed to “open up a few scars” inflicted by that 5-0 whitewash when hostilities are renewed in Brisbane this week and England will not have forgotten the pain they suffered at the Gabba four years ago.

Iain Spragg, cricket betting expert, wraps this one up…

The Test was lost by a massive 381 runs courtesy of a nine-wicket haul from Mitchell Johnson and second innings centuries for David Warner and Michael Clarke.

The defeat set the tone for the rest of a horrendous tour and the tourists badly need to escape from the Gabba this time around without suffering a similar fate.

Australia, however, haven’t lost in Brisbane for 29 years.

England haven’t won at the ground ominously known by the locals as the ‘Gabbatoir’ in seven attempts since 1986 and it’s no surprise the Baggy Greens are firm 3/4 favourites to draw first blood in the first Test.

Joe Root and the boys are 3/1 to make a winning start while the draw is 13/4.

Questions about the strength of the England top five persist given the international inexperience of Mark Stoneman, James Vince and Dawid Malan.

Both Stoneman and Malan hit centuries in the latest warm-up game against a Cricket Australia XI but it’s the skipper Root who’s the shortest-priced at 11/2 to top score in the first innings.

Alastair Cook has just one Test ton to his name in the past 12 months but is 6/1 despite his scratchy form in the three tour games so far. Stoneman is averaging 77 Down Under and is an 11/1 bet while Malan is back at 14/1 in what will be only his sixth Test.

Aussie batsmen dominate the first innings betting.

Captain Steve Smith is the number one batsman in the latest ICC World Rankings and is the 9/2 joint-favourite top score along with David Warner. Usman Khawaja is back at 7/1 while Cameron Bancroft is as short as 9/1 on what would be the 24-year-old’s Test debut.

The good news for England on the bowling front is Jake Ball’s recovery from an ankle injury which kept him out of the Cricket Australia XI clash.

The Nottinghamshire quick is battling with the uncapped Somerset’s Craig Overton for the final place in the tourists’ attack.

If selected, Ball is 15/2 to be the leading bowler in the first innings at the Gabba with Overton back at 9/1.

Jimmy Anderson is the favourite among the England quicks at 5/1 with his long-time opening partner Stuart Broad marginally longer at 11/2. Fresh from his six-wicket burst in Townsville, Chris Woakes is 13/2.

Australia have told anyone who’ll listen they’ll blow England’s batting away with raw pace this winter. They’re banking on Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood to provide the pyrotechnics and the Aussie pair are 13/4 and 9/2 respectively to batter the tourists in Brisbane.

The battle of the two team’s spinners will see Nathan Lyon and Moeen Ali go head to head. Lyon has 269 Test wickets in 69 appearances to Ali’s 128 in 44 games and the Australian is 9/1 to pick up the most wickets first time around at the Gabba compared to 11/1 on the English slow right-armer.

England appear to have an edge in the wicket-keeping department. Australia’s controversial decision to recall Tasmania’s Tim Paine after a seven-year international exile stunned Baggy Green fans and he’s 7/4 to score a half-century in either innings in Brisbane.

Opposite number Jonny Bairstow is 5/4 to do the same. The Yorkshireman is also 18/1 to be named Man of the Match while Paine is 40/1 to pick up the accolade on his return to Test cricket.

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