The British summer of cricket continues following England’s historic World Cup victory. There’s no time for rest however, as the old enemy arrive for the Ashes, hoping to fly out of England with the Urn for the first time since 2001.
England’s abject performance in the warm-up Test against Ireland exposed holes in the batting line-up that the selectors have been trying to fill for many years. The medium pace of Tim Murtagh was enough to have the top order floundering as they were dismissed for 85 on the first morning of the match.
Root’s men will be hoping that such happenings are out of their system now and his team are able to produce their best when it matters most.
Our cricket expert previews the series and markets and gives you the best bets.
It goes without saying that for many years it has been England’s bowlers that have spearheaded their assault on World cricket. In Stuart Broad and James Anderson, they have one of the great opening bowling duos in Test cricket history. They are boosted too by the emergence of Jofra Archer, who is expected to be selected for the first time after recovering from a side strain.
What was evident during the previous Ashes series in Australia was that England’s pace attack was a little blunt and the bowlers too similar. With the likes of Chris Woakes and Jake Ball supplementing the senior pair, England lacked any real x-factor on fast Australian decks.
Since then however, the emergence of the aforementioned Archer, along with Mark Wood and Olly Stone now means that England have several options if they want to add more pace into the attack.
It’s hard to look past the talismanic Anderson though, particularly if the the ball is moving around. He is, and has been for a while, the premier swing bowler in the world and I’d be tempted to take him at 5/6 to take more than 18.5 wickets in the series.
England have a lot more problems with the bat. In the longest format, all of England’s batsmen look out of nick. Even the ever conquering captain Joe Root is averaging less than 35 in his last 19 Test matches.
They’re yet to replace Andrew Strauss let alone Alastair Cook at the top of the order. Rory Burns and Jason Roy will be the latest pairing to try and nail down their spots. Burns has a couple of fifties in his six matches so far, but averages just 25. Roy is early into his Test career after making his debut against Ireland, but has already shown his susceptibility against the new ball.
Burns is available at 9/2 to be England’s top run scorer in the series, with Roy available at 5/1.
Questions may also be asked over the number three spot, with Joe Denly the latest to try and take his opportunity. His high score is 69 and you’d expect him to play in at least the first couple of matches. He’s an outside 12/1 at Grosvenorsport.com to lead the England run charts.
The Aussies had a reasonably successful World Cup campaign too, losing emphatically to the hosts in the semi-final.
They seemed to be boosted by the return of Steve Smith and David Warner from their respective bans, and as two of the best players in World cricket, it would be surprising if neither had a considerable impact on this series.
Warner was particularly impressive. becoming only the third Australian to score more than 500 runs in a World Cup. He seems to be more willing to grind out his runs during difficult periods and with that in mind, I’m quite keen on backing him to score more than 410.5 runs in the series at 5/6.
There’s no doubt in my mind who the Aussies’ biggest threat with the ball will be Mitchell Starc was sensational during the World Cup, finishing top of the bowling standings with 27 wickets. Worryingly for England, he skittled them at Lord’s as the ball began to swing and had a few batsmen jumping out the way of the short ball.
Josh Hazlewood is another bowler who could excel in English conditions, with his nagging accuracy and seam movement. He’s available at around 5/6 to take more than 16.5 wickets in the series.
If you had asked me a week ago I would have confidently declared an England victory guaranteed. I might even have suggested 5-0 to England at 33/1 at Grosvenorsport.com might be worth a punt. Their wobble against Ireland has removed a lot of confidence I had with the batting order though.
None of them have shown great form in red-ball cricket over the last 12 months or so and a low-scoring series should be expected. There won’t be many scores surpassing 350 and big scores may be at a premium.
Australia haven’t won at Edgbaston in any format since 2001 and if England can pick up another win there in the first game, that should set them up really nicely for the series. I still think England should win in home conditions and 3-1 England is the result I favour, available at 6/1 at Grosvenorsport.com.
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