Stokes centre stage for the Ashes

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Ben Stokes

The Ashes series starts in Australia in late November but what are the early talking points? That’s right – Ben Stokes, Ben Stokes, Ben Stokes.

The all-rounder has been named in the touring party but may yet be unavailable due to his off-field issues, leaving England with a massive void to fill in a series in which they are already 3/1 to claim victory.

Of course, a drawn series, a tempter at 6/1, would also be enough for England to retain the little urn – which is a 17/10 option.

However, recent history Down Under suggests Australia are likely to come out on top, brushing aside the superb England triumph of 2010/11.

A 4-1 series win for the Baggy Greens is a mere 13/2, showing just how much home conditions could come to bear, especially if the hosts get all of their first-choice pacemen fit and firing.

Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson are currently recovering from injuries but are expected to be ready while Pat Cummins has impressed in India with genuine hostility in all forms of the game.

Add in the nagging accuracy of Josh Hazlewood and Australia have plenty of reasons to be confident, with a 3-1 series victory for the home side at 9/2 certainly looking like an option to consider.

Much seems to rest out on the outcome of the first Test of five at the Gabba in Brisbane where Australia have a formidable record, having only lost one of their last nine Tests against England on that ground.

Seven years ago England escaped with a draw, taking the momentum from that result into the rest of the series which they eventually won 3-1.

They need a similar outcome this time around, with a draw in Brisbane 7/2, but bear in mind England haven’t won there since 1986 if you go with 11/5 for a win for the tourists.

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