The build-up has been lengthy and not altogether pleasant but the time for talking is almost over and the time for the cricket to begin in The Ashes series is almost here. Australia and England will do battle in the first of five Test matches in Brisbane on Thursday with both sides wanting to get off to fast starts.
Australia have a wonderful record at this ground which will serve as a nice comfort for them but England appear quietly confident heading into the series which could make for a compelling opener to what will hopefully be a great series.
It has to be said this is one of Australia’s favourite grounds historically but we should also not neglect to point out that this is not a good Australian side. This is certainly nothing like the Australian sides who have graced this venue in the past and with plenty of pressure and expectation on them it will be interesting to see how they get on.
One thing the Australians lack for the first time in a while are Queenslanders to play on this wicket. The likes of Matthew Hayden, Ryan Harris, Shane Watson and Mitchell Johnson have all been and gone and that may be significant. The one thing Australia will know is how this wicket plays and that certainly will be important.
It goes without saying that England are taking this series seriously but they are. They have had three warm up matches from which they have gained a lot from and perhaps most importantly the players who had something to prove when they boarded the plane for Australia have delivered in those matches.
That should leave England feeling good about themselves going into the series. They know they have nothing to lose. They’ve been written off from a good distance out but they have the chance to show their talents. If they are to win their four world class players will need to stand up and lead by example and then others will need to follow.
Australia always have injury issues but they are not always to batsmen however they are here. Dave Warner has a neck issue and now Shaun Marsh has reported in with a bad back. Glenn Maxwell is acting as cover for both.
England have no such issues though and such is their growing confidence going into the series they have named their XI on the eve of the match. Jake Ball edges out Craig Overton in a largely predictable side.
Brisbane Cricket Ground
This famous venue has staged 59 previous Test matches and it is something of an Australian fortress. They have won 37 of those matches and lost just eight with 13 draws and a tie. England have won just four of 20 Tests they have played here with five draws and a nasty looking 11 defeats. Australia’s recent record here is amazing.
This is a great batting wicket but you do have to dig in to get through the first session. Once the green grass has died down it is fill your boots time as a batsman but with the true bounce in the deck the bowlers always feel like they are in the game so we will get a good cricket wicket.
I always feel the toss is important here and as such it is hard to bet on the outcome of the match until we know who will win the toss. I will produce another post as the Test goes on if I end up betting on the match result.
There are a number of bets I like going into the match though. Three of those are performance bets on Joe Root, Steve Smith and Chris Woakes where I am taking the over on all three.
I always feel it is important for captains to lay a marker down at the start of the series and as such I’m expecting big matches from both Smith and Root. Smith’s performance line is 105.5 and Root’s is 96.5. Both of those are coverable with the bat but given they both field in the slip they will get scoring opportunities away from the bat and I expect both to cover comfortably.
Another man I expect to cover his performance is Chris Woakes. His line is 85.5 which is quite frankly ridiculous given what he offers to a match. He will be England’s first change bowler so should get a few overs with it relatively new and he is a very capable batsman. He may snaffle the odd catch somewhere too but in truth I expect this to be covered with a combination of bat and ball.
Cameron Bancroft is a surprise inclusion in the Test squad and while there is no doubt that he is in form after banging 200 in a Sheffield Shield game last week this is a pretty big jump. Mark Stoneman is relatively inexperienced at this level but he has got Test experience behind him and he is also in good form. I think he’ll settle in the faster of the two so him to beat Bancroft in the first innings makes sense.
I also can’t resist a cheeky punt on Chris Woakes to be the top England first innings batsman. If anything does go wrong with the top order, and based on the last 24 months it wouldn’t be a surprise if it does, then England will need bailing out from the lower order again. Woakes is a perfectly competent batsman and at 50/1 I’ll pay to see if he top scores in this first dig.
WON – Back S.Smith’s Performance – Over 105.5pts for a 4/10 stake at 1.83 with Paddy Power
Back J.Root’s Performance – Over 96.5pts for a 4/10 stake at 1.83 with Paddy Power
Back C.Woakes’ Performance – Over 85.5pts for a 5/10 stake at 1.83 with Paddy Power
Back them here:
WON – Back M.Stoneman (-0.5 runs) to beat C.Bancroft (1st inns) for a 4/10 stake at 1.83 with Coral
Back C.Woakes Top England 1st Inns Batsman for a 1/10 stake at 51.00 with Boylesports
Back him here: