It’s already been a memorable summer with England lifting the Cricket World Cup, and Joe Root will want to keep that momentum going when taking on old foes, Australia, in the Ashes which start on Thursday.
England 10-11, Australia 7-4
The two sides locked horns twice in the recent World Cup when it finished honours even at one win apiece, but England got the last laugh in the second of those when thrashing Australia in the semi-final. While the switch to Test cricket represents a different dimension altogether, Root will know the Aussies have an open wound and he’ll want to take advantage if winning back the Ashes lost in Australia two years ago.
PREVIOUS ASHES SERIES
What stands out from past Ashes encounters is the importance of playing at home. Of the last nine series, eight went to the hosts, with only England in 2011 playing out of their skins to win in Australia. Likewise, the last time Australia won here was back in 2003. On that basis alone, it’s no wonder the bookies make England their 10-11 favourites to win the series and regain the Ashes.
First up for Root’s men is the opening Test at Edgbaston, where England will have good memories of beating Australia in the recent World Cup semi-final.
1 August, Edgbaston, Birmingham
The aforementioned semi-final proved once again how Edgabston has become a real fortress for England – a ground where they lost just once in 14 Tests. It’s a record the Aussies will be aware of and they’ll need to get into the match right from the first session if wanting to put the brakes on Root’s men.
14 August, Lord’s, London
Having produced six consecutive draws at Lord’s from 2006-2008, there were only three draws in the subsequent 21 Tests – in other words, the home of cricket is very much a result pitch. As for England’s recent record here, then of their last 10 Tests since 2014, they won only four and lost four, while in Ashes matches here, Australia lead 5-2 since 1989.
22 August, Headingly, Leeds
If there is one ground Australia will seek to do well at, then it is Headingley. Not only do the Aussies lead 4-1 here since 1989, but England’s recent record in Leeds is poor, winning just three of their last 10 Tests.
4 September, August Old Trafford, Manchester
If Edgbaston has proven favourable to England in recent times, then Old Trafford is a very close second. Since 2002, England remain unbeaten here, winning nine of their 11 matches, drawing two. It’s a ground James Anderson knows very well as it’s where he plays his home games for Lancashire, and he’ll want to enjoy what could be his final Ashes match here .
12 September, The Oval, London
What could turn out to be a crucial finale at the Kennington Oval will be played at a venue where England hold good memories at, beating both India and South Africa here during the last two summers. In fact, England lost just five of their 19 matches at The Oval since 2000 – a ground where Sam Curran has already taken nine wickets in two county games this year.
If Australia want to keep the Ashes back home, then they need to put the hosts on the backfoot during the first three Tests, where they could capitalize at both Lord’s and Headingley, should England be nursing a World Cup hangover.
On the subject of grounds, the layers have priced up which of the famous venues could produce the most runs.
Test Grounds – Last Five Tests
|Ground||Total runs||Average runs per Test|
Cricket fans who purchased tickets for Headingley and The Oval will hope the runs keep flowing as both venues provided the most in recent years. As for punting opportunities, then the bookies have also done their homework as they make Headingley their 12-5 favourite, with The Oval 13-5 – Edgbaston, Lord’s and Old Trafford are all 9-2. With the final game of the series being played at The Oval, there could be plenty of nerves and more wickets than runs, so the 12-5 about Headingley could be the way to go.
The retirement of Alastair Cook and constant chopping and changing of England’s starting line-up has produced an inconsistent string of results for Joe Root’s men.
England – Last Five Series
2019: Lost – West Indies 2 England 1 (Away)
2018: Won – England 3 Sri Lanka 0 (Away)
2018: Won – England 4 India 1 (Home)
2018: Drew – England 1 Pakistan 1 (Home)
2018: Lost – New Zealand 1 England 0 (Away)
Overall: Played 15 Won 9 Lost 5 Drew 1 (60%)
Home: Played 7 Won 5 Lost 5 Drew 0 (71%)
Away: Played 8 Won 4 Lost 3 Drew 1 (50%)
The one tick is England’s home form, as they showed when destroying India last summer, while half the team will be oozing confidence from the World Cup.
Australia – Last Five Series
2018/19: Won – Australia 2 Sri Lanka 0 (Home)
2018/19: Lost – India 2 Australia 1 (Home)
2018/19: Won – Australia 1 Pakistan 0 (Away)
2018/19: Lost - South Africa 3 Australia 1 (Away)
2018/19: Won – Australia 4 England 0 (Home)
Overall: Played 17 Won 9 Lost 5 Drew 3 (53%)
Home: Played 11 Won 8 Lost 1 Drew 2 (73%)
Away: Played 6 Won 1 Lost 4 Drew 1 (17%)
The big news for Australia is the welcome return of former captain, Steve Smith, and opener, David Warner. The pair looked in good touch during the World Cup, and will re-join a team that coped fairly well without them in winning two of their three series.
Followers of statistics will no doubt be siding with England, who boast a 71% home win record against Australia’s 17% away record. But, sport – let alone cricket – is never that straightforward, and this series looks more of a 50/50 coin spin.
Last 10 Ashes Tests In England
2015: Australia won by an innings and 46 runs
2015: England won by an innings and 78 runs
2015: England won by 8 wickets
2015: Australia won by 405 runs
2015: England won by 169 runs
2013: Match drawn
2013: England won by 74 runs
2013: Match drawn
2013: England won by 374 runs
2013: England won by 14 runs
Last 10 Ashes Tests In Australia
2017/18: Australia won by 10 wickets
2017/18: Australia won by 120 runs
2017/18: Match drawn
2017/18: Australia won an innings and 41 runs
2017/18: Australia won an innings and 123 runs
2013/14: Australia won by 281 runs
2013/14: Australia won by 8 wickets
2013/14: Australia won by 150 runs
2013/14: Australia won by 218 runs
2013/14: Australia won by 381 runs
And so now to the big question: who will win the Ashes?
There are positives and negatives for both sides. England will be playing on home soil and have a batch of batsmen if top form such as Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Joss Buttler. However, all five need to continue their one-day form to support a fragile batting Test line-up in recent years, including against Ireland last week.
The negatives surround the bowlers, with James Anderson missing the warm-up game against Ireland, Jofra Archer missing until the second Test and Mark Wood out until the Fourth Test. True, England still have an able unit in Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes, Ben Stokes, Sam Curran and Moeen Ali, but this will still be a different mix of players to those that won the World Cup, with the captain, Eoin Morgan, who calmly steered them to success, also missing.
Australia will of course being playing away, but their visits here haven’t been too bad, unlike when England travel Down Under where four of their five defeats came by thumping scorelines of 4-0, 5-0, 5-0 and 4-1. However, the Aussies’ last five Ashes series in England saw series defeats of 3-2, 3-0, 2-1 2-1 – much tighter affairs.
Australia also looked in good form during the recent World Cup, with Mitchell Starc taking the most wickets in the tournament, and David Warner hitting the second most runs.
It all adds up to a very tight contest, and it’s hard to see this home series for England being another straightforward task, especially if they don’t start well and then head to Lord’s and Headingley where they can be vulnerable. Certainly, the bookies quote of 10-11 about England winning the series – which has been on the drift – looks short enough, suggesting other markets could present better odds.
SERIES CORRECT SCORE
What remains interesting about past results between the old rivals is that there haven’t been many drawn series – the last being in 1972, during a period of four drawn series from 1963 to 1972. A 2-2 drawn series this time around is 7-1, and that wouldn’t be out of the question with not much splitting between the pair.
As already stated, three of the four Ashes series here since 2005 produced correct-scores of 3-2, 2-1 and 2-1. Another 2-1 home win is as big as 12-1, with the bookies’ seeing a 3-1 home win the most likely outcome at 11-2. But, with the overall evidence pointing to what could be the tightest series for years, along with the advantage of playing at home, an England 3-2 win could the choice at 7-1.
While it maybe hard for home fans to contemplate Australia winning the Ashes, odds of 9-1 for them to snatch a 3-2 series win wouldn’t be unrealistic, though 50-1 for an Aussies 5-0 whitewash does seem unlikely. Punters who don’t mind shorter prices meanwhile, may prefer 11-8 for Australia in the Series Winner Draw No Bet market.
The market for this year’s leading batsmen of the Ashes series has a familiar feel to it, with the usual protagonists all taking their place at the head of the market in Joe Root (7-2), Steve Smith (4-1) and David Warner (5-1). The last two names are very much respected as they featured heavily during the last three Ashes series:
2017-18 Ashes Series – Most Runs
687 Steve Smith (Australia)
445 Shaun Marsh (Australia)
441 David Warner (Australia)
2015 Ashes Series – Most Runs
508 Steve Smith (Australia)
480 Chris Rogers (Australia)
460 Joe Root (England)
2013-14 Ashes Series – Most Runs
523 David Warner (Australia)
493 Brad Haddin (Australia)
463 Chris Rogers (Australia)
Interestingly, Smith even came out on top during the last series here in 2015, with only Joe Root getting a mention for England. Of the big three (Root, Smith, Warner), then 5-1 about Warner is without doubt the best price considering his World Cup form. Elsewhere, it’s hard to believe the bookies have inexperienced opener Englishman, Rory Burns, at 10-1 – the same price as Jonny Bairstow, who is flying and has a solid record. Jason Roy is also 10s, with batting heroes, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, on 20-1 and 25-1 respectively.
Top English Batsman
There are two ways of looking at England’s batsman – either as a group of in-form hitters who have to translate that form to the Test arena, or an inconsistent Test batting line-up missing Alastair Cook. The departure of Cook could become apparent throughout the summer, as both him and Joe Root led the way during the last few years
Last Five Series – Most Runs
2019: West Indies (186 B Stokes; 178 J Buttler; 177 J Root)
2018: Sri Lanka (277 B Foakes; 250 J Buttler; 233 K Jennings)
2018: India (349 J Buttler; 327 A Cook; 319 J Root)
2018: Pakistan (161 J Buttler; 117 A Cook; 117 J Root)
2018: N Zealand (163 J Bairstow; 161 M Stoneman; 142 J Root)
With Alastair Cook hanging up his cricket boots, a lot will depend on Joe Root to provide the anchor of the batting line-up. The bookies concur and make Root their 9-4 favourite, but that appears poor value considering he hasn’t won this market for the last five Test series (as above) and will have the pressure of the country on his shoulders as captain.
It isn’t often the bookies make mistakes, but they have on this occasion in pricing-up Jos Buttler at 10-1 to be top English batsman. Buttler will be fresher for his batting and can concentrate on piling up the runs, just as he did during the last four Test series. In fact, Buttler finished top batsman twice and runner-up twice, including when racking up 349 runs during last summer’s home series against India. At 8-1 he would have represented a good bet, let alone 10-1.
Top Australian Batsman
As with the top batsman of the series, the two main hitters in the Aussie side are Steve Smith and David Warner, and it would be a surprise if one of them didn’t score the most runs for the visitors – Smith is 2-1 and Warner 5-2. *(Note, the pair served a ban for ball tampering, and didn’t feature in some of the recent Tests below).
*2019: Sri Lanka (304 T Head; 204 J Burns; 144 K Patterson)
*2019: India (258 M Harris; 237 T Head; 198 U Khawaja)
*2018: Pakistan (229 U Khawaja; 181 A Finch; 122 T Head)
2018: S Africa (233 C Bancroft; 217 D Warner; 215 T Paine)
2018: England (687 S Smith; 445 S Marsh; 4541 D Warner)
The above stats can be misleading as both Smith and Warner were missing for the last three series, but normal service should be resumed, as it was in the recent World Cup where Warner finished top scorer for Australia and second top in the tournament overall. Therefore, the value has to be with Warner at 5-2 to finish top bat for the Aussies.
2017-18 Ashes Series – Most Runs
23 Pat Cummins (Australia)
22 Mitchell Starc (Australia)
21 Nathan Lyon (Australia)
2015 Ashes Series – Most Wickets
21 Stuart Broad (England)
18 Mitchell Starc (Australia)
16 Josh Hazlewood (Australia)
16 Nathan Lyon (Australia)
2013-14 Ashes Series – Most Wickets
37 Mitchell Johnson (Australia)
22 Ryan Harris (Australia)
21 Stuart Broad (England)
19 Nathan Lyon (Australia)
2013 Ashes Series – Most Wickets
26 Graeme Swann (England)
24 Ryan Harris (Australia)
22 Stuart Broad (England)
22 James Anderson (England)
As seems to be the theme with each Ashes series, home advantage very much comes into play, especially with the bowling. During the last two series in Australia, a home bowler came out on top, and vice versa in England. Stuart Broad finished with 21 wickets here in 2015, which was a low winning total considering he took 22 in the home series in 2013 yet finished only third.
Broad is a generous-looking 10-1 this time around, with his partner, James Anderson, a 9-2 shot, and the pair continue to be among the wickets in England’s most recent series. As for the Aussies, the following trio dominated Down Under when the teams met last in Pat Cummins (5-1), Mitchell Starc (9-2) and Nathan Lyon (10-1), and they’ll be back for more – Josh Hazlewood is 5-1. Starc featured heavily in the 2015 series here with 18 wickets, but still three behind Broad, who looks well priced. Broad has kept himself fresh for the series and looked in fair form when taking wickets against Ireland last week.
Top England Bowler
2019: West Indies (14 M Ali; 10 B Stokes; 10 J Anderson)
2018: Sri Lanka (18 J Leach; 18 M Ali; 12 A Rashid)
2018: India (24 J Anderson; 16 S Broad; 14 B Stokes)
2018: Pakistan (9 J Anderson; 7 S Broad; 4 C Woakes)
2018: N Zealand (11 S Broad; 8 J Anderson; 2 J Root)
Once again the market favours both James Anderson (2-1) and Stuart Broad (5-2) to take most wickets for the hosts, but new kid on the block, Jofra Archer (3-1), could also feature.
Archer finished top wicket taker for England in the recent World Cup, and while he could miss the First Test through injury, they’ll still be plenty of time to make an impact. Of the three, Broad could be the best option as Anderson is carrying a calf injury heading into the series, but Broad looks fresh ahead of the five Test series.
It’s hard to see beyond the aforementioned trio, as Mark Wood (4-1) looks ruled out until the Fourth Test, while Ben Stokes (7-1), like Sam Curran (20-1) will be thereabouts but neither are prolific wicket-takers. Moeen Ali finished top bowler for England in the West Indies and second in Sri Lanka where the ball turned more, though Chris Woakes would be a possible at 5-1 if injuries become an issue and he gets a run of matches.
Top Australian Bowler
If current form is anything to go by, then Mitchell Starc could take some beating, as he finished top wicket taker in the recent World Cup on these pitches. Starc has also delivered during Australia’s last five Tests.
2019: Sri Lanka (14 P Cummins; 12 M Starc; 6 J Richardson)
2019: India (21 N Lyon; 14 P Cummins; 13 J Hazlewood)
2018: Pakistan (12 N Lyon; 7 M Labuschagne; 4 M Starc)
2018: S Africa (22 P Cummins; 16 N Lyon; 12 M Starc)
2018: England (23 P Cummins; 22 M Starc; 21 J Hazlewood)
The bookies make Starc their 2-1 favourite, with Pat Cummins 5-2 and Josh Hazlewood 3-1, and the fact Starc failed to finish top Aussie bowler in the last five series may put some off in search of a better price about Pat Cummins.
As for the veteran Peter Siddle, who has worked his way back into the team, he rates a 7-2 shot and has been playing for Essex this year, taking a five-for only a few weeks ago. Then there is the spinner, Nathan Lyon (9-2), who finished top bowler for his country against both South Africa and India and has plenty of Ashes experience, taking 16 wickets in the 2015 series here.
Ashes 2019 best bets (scale 1-5 points):
TOP ENGLISH BATSMAN
2pts JOS BUTTLER (10-1 bet365, BetVictor, Unibet, William Hill)
SERIES CORRECT SCORE
2pts ENGLAND 3-2 (7-1 Betfred, Betfair Sportsbook, Paddy Power, 13-2 Coral, Ladbrokes)
1pt STUART BROAD (8-1 Unibet, 13-2 Betfair Sportsbook, Paddy Power)