The Ashes is arguably the most competitive and eagerly anticipated test cricket series in the world. It is a series contested between Australia and England and the winner of the series gets to take home the Ashes Urn.
The first Ashes series took place over 100 years ago in 1882 and is hosted in turn by both Australia and England with the former having the honour for the 2017/18 series. The Ashes Urn may seem like a strange item to win but the term came from an obituary written in an English newspaper stating that English cricket had died following Australia’s win in England in 1882.
This Ashes series will be contested over five test matches as the Ashes has been since 1894 and these will take place at the Gabba, Adelaide Oval, WACA Ground, Melbourne Cricket Ground and the Sydney Cricket Ground between the 23rd of November 2017 and the 8th of January 2018.
England comes into this Ashes series as the defending holders of the Urn having won the 2015 series 3-2. Therefore, a draw in this series will be enough to see them hold on to the Ashes but the England team will be hoping to stage a repeat performance of their victory on home soil.
Ashes 2015: England’s Victory Over Australia
However, despite England coming into this series as the holder of the Ashes, it’s the host Australia who begins the first Test Match at the Gabba as the favourites to win back the Urn priced at 18/25 with bookmaker Marathonbet to take the series. England is out at 11/4 and the draw can be backed at 15/4.
With the series set to start on the 23rd of November, the Australian selectors have made some interesting decisions ahead of the first Test. The selection of a wicketkeeper who has not played for seven years and the option of a wicketkeeper-batsman in Cameron Bancroft at the top of the order in place of a solid specialist opener has seen some eyebrows raised.
Australia could have three wicketkeepers in their starting XI for the first Test Match and while the English have had their own problems leading in to this series, Australia has handed back some of the initiative with their squad selection.
It has become clear the hosts are worried about their run scoring; however, England’s record in the country is awful and with the heat and different ball and rock-solid pitches to look forward to, it’s difficult to make a case for the tourists.
England has claimed one series victory since 1987 in Australia and it seems unlikely they are going break that record this time around. The English failed miserably on their last visit in 2013/14 going down 5-0. Is a repeat performance in store come the end of the 2017/18 Ashes series?
The best chance England has of winning the series is with a consistent team playing good cricket and they currently fall short on both fronts. However, they have strength in the all-rounder department that Australia does not and will show plenty of determination to defeat their bitter rivals.
Therefore, a series whitewash is unlikely and England, having seen the Australian selection, will feel a little better about their chances. With a day/night match at Adelaide that England will be eyeing as one potential victory, don’t be surprised to see the series finish by the same score as two years ago, this time in favour of Australia.
Away from the series winner market, there is plenty of other betting action to enjoy in this Ashes series.
While much of the talk in the lead up to the first Test Match has been about the batting line-ups, it’s the bowlers who could have the biggest say as to where the Urn travels following the final Test Match.
The Australian quartet of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Jackson Bird were asked to leave their Sheffield Shield matches and head to Brisbane in preparation for the first Test. This move underlines the importance of these bowlers to the hosts and where Australia holds the upper hand on their opponents.
Mitchell Starc is the man to watch with the ball for Australia in terms of pace and he not only starts the series as favourite to end as top wicket taker for his team at 5/4 with Marathonbet but also favourite to finish as the series top wicket taker, priced at 15/8.
Mitchell Starc Bowling Highlights
However, there are fitness concerns surrounding Starc and if the fast bowler fails to play every Test Match, which is a real possibility, then Josh Hazlewood could be the man leading the Australians to victory with his bowling.
Hazlewood’s team mate, Nathan Lyon has spoken about him being the best bowler in the world leading into this Test series and he bowls with a line and length that has seen him compared with the great Glenn McGrath. Hazlewood is 5/2 to finish the series as the top bowler.
Looking at the England team and James Anderson’s name stands out as a clear favourite to be their top bowler, priced at 5/2 with sportsbook Marathonbet. However, both Anderson and Broad have endured bad experiences in Australia and while they are clearly capable of bowling well, wickets may be at a premium.
This could see an outside bet come to the fore and Chris Woakes makes an interesting proposition at 7/2 with Marathonbet to be England’s leading wicket taker. The all-rounder is essentially seen as the man to replace Ben Stokes for England on this tour and he boasts a better bowling average than both Stokes and Moeen Ali from 18 Test Matches.
In terms of the top batsman in this Ashes series, one man stands out as far as England is concerned and that’s captain Joe Root.
Root is ranked as the second best batsman in the world by the official ICC rankings and stands head and shoulders above his teammates in England’s batting order. Even if Root were not to hit top form in Australia, it’s the calibre of the men around him that makes him the most likely to finish as England’s top run scorer in this series, priced at 5/2 with Marathonbet.
Root is the only Englishman to make the top three when it comes to the overall top batsman of the series betting market. David Warner and Steve Smith are on offer at 11/4 and 3/1 respectively with Smith being the only man above Root in the official ICC World Rankings.
Warner may get a lot of the headlines but Smith is the man who will be hoping to lead the hosts to victory and must start the series as favourite to finish as top batsman.
With Australian players leading the way in terms of both the individual batting and bowling markets, it is little surprise they start the 2017/18 Ashes series as the favourites to win back the Urn.