The wait is nearly over. The Ashes finally gets underway this week, with old rivals Australia and England facing off in Brisbane for the first Test of the series. Australia are the firm favourites to prevail on home soil and regain the Ashes, but England won’t be giving up the cherished urn without a fight.
There’s no doubt that Australia have the players to win this series. Steve Smith has an excellent record as captain of the side, and he continued to cement his record as a top-class batsman during the tour of India earlier this year. Most leading online betting sites have him among the favourites to be the leading run scorer of the series, along with opening batsman David Warner.
Warner and Smith are very likely to rack up some big scores at the crease, and the pacey Australian bowlers can definitely hurt the English batsmen. Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazelwood will probably be the biggest dangers, with support from Pat Cummins and spin bowler Nathan Lyon.
There are some weaknesses in the side, though, and England are more than capable of exploiting them. They can boast some excellent players of their own, notably captain Joe Root and his recently appointed vice James Anderson. Alastair Cook, Moeen Ali and Jake Ball could also be key players.
England have the edge in Test experience, and indeed Ashes experience too. This could prove to be a real advantage as the series progresses, although they’re not without problems of their own. The enforced absence of Ben Stokes due to disciplinary problems is a huge blow, and his obvious replacement Steve Finn is missing out with an injury.
We’re essentially looking at two teams that both have top quality players, but are also fundamentally flawed. Although this should make for an exciting Ashes, it makes it hard to predict how the series will turn out.
One of the main reasons why Australia are favoured by the bookmakers is the fact they’re playing at home. History tells us that when Australia and England are fairly equal overall, home advantage usually makes the difference in the Ashes. And Australia have proved very tough beat in their own country over the past few years, with six wins in their last seven series.
England, meanwhile, have been pretty poor away from home. They have only a single series victory in their last seven on foreign soil, which doesn’t bode well for the visitors.
However, talk of a potential whitewash for Australia seems optimistic in the extreme. They don’t seem strong enough to dominate to that extent, and it’s hard to see England collapsing completely. It’s quite likely that momentum will shift from one team to another during the series.
Australia are probably a fairly safe bet to win the first Test, and at odds of 5/6 they represent reasonable value. It wouldn’t be at all surprising to then see England win the day-night test at Adelaide, as their swing bowling could give them the edge there. That could potentially be another good bet, depending on the odds nearer the time.
Other bets that look like good value at this stage include the following.