England and Australia renew hostilities at Edgbaston on Thursday when the 71st Ashes series gets underway. The hosts were brought back down to earth by their far from convincing win over Ireland last week having been flying high after their World Cup exploits and Australia will hope to expose the frailties of the England Test team.
However, the Baggy Greens are far from a well-rounded outfit themselves with a heavy reliance on Steve Smith and David Warner to get them out of trouble.
If those two falter with the bat at a venue where England haven’t lost any of their last eight Test matches then it should be first blood to Joe Root and co.
England to win @ 10/11
The Three Lions recently saw off the Aussies at Edgbaston in the World Cup semi-finals, continuing their excellent run against their fiercest rivals, who haven’t won a Test in Birmingham since 2001.
That was the last time Australia won the Ashes on English soil, hence why they enter series as 27/20 outsiders, despite regaining the urn with a 4-0 win Down Under in 2017/18.
Removing Warner and Smith will be key to England chances of victory, with the former in excellent form at the World Cup, scoring 647 runs, while Smith averages 60 in the longest format, although only has a top score of eight at Edgbaston in his previous Test outings.
Chris Woakes (7/2 top England bowler first innings) was in excellent form against Ireland as he took six second innings wickets and backed up by James Anderson (11/4) and World Cup hero Jofra Archer (3/1) they should have enough pace to trouble Smith and co.
Ben Stokes top England batsman @ 6/1
Stokes was rested for the Ireland Test following his exploits at the World Cup and England will be delighted to see him back.
The top order struggled badly against the Irish and there is no reason to think they won’t falter again at Edgbaston. Stokes will likely be needed to get a big score and luckily for England, he’s in good form having scored 465 runs at the World Cup.
Stokes will also be seeking to make amends having been banned for the last Ashes series and offers value as the home side’s top runscorer.
Pat Cummins top Australia bowler @ 2/1
Mitchell Starc was the hero with the ball for Australia at the World Cup as he took a tournament-high 27 wickets but is in danger of missing the first Test. Cummins, the No.1 ranked Test bowler in the world, is, therefore, a safer bet to smash through England’s fragile top order.
Cummins was dominant in the last series in Australia, taking 23 wickets, and with the likes of Rory Burns and Joe Denly struggling for the confidence with the bat, the 26-year-old paceman has what it takes to terrorise the hosts.
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