The Ashes gets underway in the early hours of Thursday night so now seems as good a time as any to have a look at the series as a whole. There has been plenty of talking heading into the series but that is almost done and we can finally get stuck into the cricket at long last.
The two sides will play five Tests in Australia over the next eight weeks which culminates in Sydney as ever. England know they only need to draw the series to retain the urn. Australia must win it to regain it.
1st Test: Nov 23-27 at Brisbane
2nd Test: Dec 2-6 at Adelaide (day-night)
3rd Test: Dec 14-18 at Perth
4th Test: Dec 26-30 at Melbourne
5th Test: Jan 4-8 at Sydney
The Australians have been talked up as emphatic favourites heading into this series but they have played two series in 2017 and failed to win either. They were well beaten in India earlier in the year and then could only draw in Bangladesh. While conditions here will be much more to their liking they are not arriving with much confidence.
This is an Australian side that needs to be in transition but the problem they have is their stocks are getting thinner by the season so they are going to be heavily reliant on the same players if they are to win the series. They have talked up a good game but now has come the time to play one. It will be interesting to see if they can put their poor form behind them.
In contrast to Australia, despite having better form over the course of 2017, England have been written off heading into this series but I don’t think they will mind that too much. They perform best as underdogs and if they have nothing to lose then that will suit them just fine. They haven’t spoken much in the lead up to this series but they have had three solid warm up matches which should have them nicely tuned up for this.
England are also going to be reliant on four or five men and there is no doubt that the initial absence of Ben Stokes is a blow so they will be looking for a couple of the lesser lights to stand up and be counted. If that happens then this England side could be set up to produce something special. They should not lack for motivation.
Head to Head
There have been 69 previous Ashes series and this one may well sort out the stalemate that the two sides are currently on. Both have won 32 series and there have been five series which ended in draws. Australia have the edge when they are at home. They have won 18 series to England’s 14 with two draws.
In individual matches Australia have more of an edge. In total they have won 130 of the 325 Tests between the two. England have 106 wins and here have been 89 draws. In Australia the home side have won just over 50% of the matches with 82 wins to 56 losses. 24 have ended in draws.
If you believed the talk before the series begins you wouldn’t give England a hope let alone a price but I don’t see it that way. I think Australia have as many problems as England and theirs may run a lot deeper than England.
Australia have a lack of class batsmen coming through and their bowling attack, while quality when it is fit, is more fragile than glass and that has to be a concern for them. Already they have undertaken some strange selections and I suspect there may be more to come if England start well.
I think England will win the series. Test matches and series these days are decided by batting depth and bowling options and England have the advantage on both counts. Four years ago Australia had it in spades. In the five matches their fifth wicket fell with the score on 100/5, 257/5, 143/5, 112/5 and 97/5. At that point Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson came in to break England’s hearts. Neither are around here and Tim Paine and Mitchell Starc are nothing like as useful.
Contrast that with England who will have Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad batting 6-9 so there is a lot of depth there and Moeen’s batting ability allows England to play four seamers. In a series which last eight weeks in total that can be big so I’m with them for the series.
I don’t see many draws in this series. Both sides have two world class batsmen and then a set of players in their top order with plenty of questions to answer. The two bowling attacks look the stronger suit so I’m not expecting many matches to go the full five days barring rain.
Given that I think England will win the series and I don’t see draws the natural thing to do is to take England to win 3-2 and 4-1. England won the last series 4-1 and if Australian dominance at Brisbane and Perth continues then 3-2 England has every chance. Both are acceptable prices here.
Quite amazingly there is a line up for the series sixes which is as high as 40.5. I’m really surprised at that because when you look at the sides man for man there isn’t a lot of six hitting talent around. Australia have Dave Warner but not a lot else while England are without their best six hitter in Ben Stokes and the likes of James Vince and Dawid Malan will be looking to be more solid than belt balls out of the park.
Sixes will come and go in this series but I’m not convinced these two batting line ups will combine for an average of more than eight a match especially given the side of some of these grounds in Australia. I’ll take the under here.
Back England to win The Ashes for a 3/10 stake at 4.33 with Unibet
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Back England to win 3-2 for a 1/10 stake at 17.00 with Betfred
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Back England to win 4-1 for a 1/10 stake at 34.00 with Boylesports
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WON – Back Under 40.5 series sixes for a 4/10 stake at 1.83 with Bet365