After what seems like an absolute age spent wading through a morass of dull, uneventful Test matches, the Ashes is finally back. Meaningful Test cricket – oh how we’ve missed you!
The 2017/18 iteration of the series promises to be a fascinating one. Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris are gone, but Australia have yet again developed another cohort of intimidating fast bowlers to replace them. Leading the charge is the gigantic left-armer Mitch Starc, who’ll be ably assisted by the likes of Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins.
On the flipside, both sides look relatively vulnerable with the bat, leading to the possibility of a pretty tight contest in every Test.
Top Team B Runscorer, 1st Innings: Alistair Cook – 3/1
These days, Alistair Cook is something of a second-fiddle to England’s boy wonder, Joe Root. But he’s still a formidable and reliable Test cricketer – who also just happens to have a very solid record in Australia.
With the bat in Oz, Cook has 1,288 Test runs at an average of 49.53, which includes four tons and five half-centuries. Root, by contrast, has a rather patchy record in five-day matches Down Under, with 192 runs in eight innings (Avg: 27.42).
Cook may no longer be England’s main man, but he has the stats to back up the notion that he could well be one of only a few of the visiting batsmen who have the temperament and resilience to survive an early Aussie onslaught.
At a price of 3/1 to be top scorer for his side in their first innings, there’s value to be found in the market.
Steve Smith to score a 50 in Australia’s 1st Inns – 6/4
Smith has six fifties and a ton in his last 14 innings – he’s a consistent performer, and as the Australian captain, he’ll want to lay down a marker first time up in the series.
In eight Test innings at the Gabba, he has 434 runs at 54.25, so he obviously likes the ground. It would be no surprise to see the skipper grind his way to a half-century in his team’s opening Ashes knock.
Pat Cummins Over 1.5 1st Inns wickets – 4/6
You’d have to expect Australia to take all ten England wickets in the visitors’ first innings – the prospect of Root’s men racking up 600+ and declaring doesn’t seem a likely one. So it’s probably going to be a matter of who takes them.
Strike-bowler Starc would be the obvious choice, but his Over/Under line is currently at 2.5, so there’s value in backing someone with a slightly lower line. That leads us to Cummins, who could well profit from the pressure heaped on England by Starc, Lyon and Co and mop up two or three handy wickets.
All odds correct at time of posting.