Racing and cricket tipster Miles Tredwell is one of the very best in the biz, so it’s my pleasure to bring you this free betting preview of the upcoming Ashes series. Enjoy!
In their last three Test series’, England’s men have lost home and away against India and at home to New Zealand, and are about to make it four in a row by losing in Australia. Recent series’ down under have largely gone the way of the home side and, while this is far from the strongest Australian team of recent times, they’ll once again be too strong for the tourists on their own patch.
Best of the bowlers
The familiar bowling quartet of Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon and new captain Patrick Cummins share over 1,000 Test wickets between them and each took 21, 22 or 23 wickets at averages under 30 in the last Ashes series in Australia four years ago. For England, James Anderson was the leading wicket-taker with 17 and he returns, along with Stuart Broad, Craig Overton and Chris Woakes.
Before looking at who is likely to be the leading wicket-takers this time around, there are a couple of factors to note. Firstly, the five match series begins on December 8th (Aus time, 23:30 on December 7th UK time) and finishes on the January 18th, making for potentially 25 days of cricket in six weeks…
Secondly, with the exception of Overton, all of these bowlers, plus injury prone Mark Wood and Ben Stokes, are all the wrong side of 30. Putting these two together equals plenty of rotation. Whereas spinner Lyon and pacemen Cummins, Hazlewood, Broad and Anderson were ever-present last time, that is unlikely to be repeated with less recovery time mid-series.
For Australia, Lyon is likely to play each match and it’s common for him to bowl lengthy spells at one end while the others are given shorter blasts at the other. He should bowl the most overs once more – he bowled 260 overs in 2017/18, which was 63 more than Cummins, 70 more than Hazlewood and 98 more than Starc. With the tighter schedule and more rotation likely to be needed, this gap is only likely to increase. He’ll also benefit from having a collection of left-handers to bowl at – Rory Burns, Dawid Malan, Ben Stokes, Stuart Broad and James Anderson.
This should give Lyon the opportunity and advantage to be Australia’s leading wicket-taker. However, given Australia’s expected dominance, it is very likely that whoever takes the most wickets for them also surpasses the number taken by any one Englishman. In 17/18, England lost 90 wickets and Australia 58, with the difference largely due to two victories by an innings and another by 10 wickets. With Lyon a bigger price to be the overall leading wicket-taker rather than only Australia’s (9/2 verses 3/1), the best value is the 9/2 to be the overall leading wicket-taker in the series.
England’s bowling line-ups are harder to predict. Anderson turns 40 in July and hasn’t played in every Test of an away tour since in the West Indies three winters ago. Broad is 35 and missed most of the English summer due to injury. Wood has had persistent niggles and injuries over the last few years and he’ll be saved for the fastest, bounciest tracks, especially with the absence of England’s other two genuinely quick bowlers, Jofra Archer and Ollie Stone.
Stokes returns after a break from the game due to a combination of injuries and personal difficulties and his bowling is likely to need more time than his batting. Even then, captain Joe Root has tended to treat him very much as the fifth bowler in the last few years, giving him far fewer overs than others.
Root’s use of Overton at the end of the Indian series in the summer strongly suggests he’s down the pecking order and is there mainly as a back-up, while it remains to be seen how much opportunity the sparsely played Jack Leach is given. That leaves Ollie Robinson, who was very impressive in his debut summer for England against India, and Chris Woakes. The likelihood is that both will feature in most, if not all, of the five Tests.
Woakes’ batting will be a bonus and aid his selection chances, especially if Stokes is unable to play each game and/or can only offer a limited bowling option. In the past he’s struggled away from home, tending to bowl an English style length without benefiting from the movement he’s accustomed to finding at home. However, through work with Darren Gough he’s worked at bowling a shorter length and hitting the pitch harder…
There were clear signs of improvement during the World Cup and he could be a handful in Australia if able to get it right. At the prices he looks the value call to be England’s leading wicket-taker and if he plays and bowls at least as much the others, which is probable, he’ll be a much overpriced contender.
And now the batsmen…
England’s batting remains a big problem and Root’s excellence can surely only paper over the canyons for so long. It’s easy to see why Root is odds-on to lead the way again, but the Australian pitches are vastly different to those he’s been prolific on of late. For example, he’s become increasingly reliant upon rotating the strike by running the ball down to third man but that will be more difficult in the coming weeks with the extra bounce and balls getting big on him.
While Root is once again averaging above 50 in Tests, nobody else is averaging 35. The openers will have a tough time and may struggle with the short ball on these tracks, while Stokes may have some rustiness and tends to play the occasional starring innings rather than score consistently. Others have come in and also struggled for consistency.
The one main rival to Root could be Malan. He was England’s leading scorer in 17/18 and is a better player now. He’s also gained more international experience in other formats over the last few years.
He was dropped in the summer of 2018 with then head selector Ed Smith reflecting that Malan’s game may be best suited to overseas conditions (such as Australia and South Africa). That may have been untimely, but there could be an element of truth in it and Malan’s South African upbringing may have helped prepare him for such tours. He looked the part when making a belated return at the end of the series against India and should be second favourite in the market.
Top of the pops
Player of the Series more often than not goes to a member of the winning side and with the bowlers likely to be rotated this points towards an Australian batsman.
Steve Smith is the obvious candidate but is priced accordingly. At more than twice the price, Marcus Labuschagne is interesting here. He bagged his place in the side in England in 2019 with four consecutive half-centuries after replacing Smith as a concussion substitute when Smith was hit by an Archer bouncer. Since then his record has been incredible with 1322 runs, including 5 centuries from 16 innings at an average of 82.6, all of which have been in Australia.
Leading series wicket-taker overall: Nathan Lyon at 5/1 SkyBet or 9/2 Paddy Power, Betfair Sportsbook, bet365
Leading series wicket-taker for England: Chris Woakes at 12/1 Coral, Ladbrokes
Leading series runscorer for England: Dawid Malan at 9/1 BetVictor or 8/1 bet365
Player of the series: Marcus Labuschagne at 8/1 bet365, BetVictor or 7/1 William Hill
(Be careful to back in the series markets and not the 1st Test only)