The 70th Ashes series gets underway on Thursday with Australia and England locked at 32 series victories apiece with five drawn. In recent times, the English have had the upper hand winning four of five series, including the 2015 series played in Britain. However, only one of those series victories took place on Australian shores (2010/11) with the Baggy greens recording just the third 5-0 clean sweep in Ashes history the last time these side met down under (2013/14).
Will the Poms put up more of a fight this time around? In short, yes. Despite losing key player Ben Stokes, they make the trip with a good blend of youth and experience in their squad. Skipper Joe Root is at the peak of his powers whilst Alastair Cook has proven his ability to bat on harder Australian decks, earning player of the series in 2010/11 for his 766 runs across five Tests. Bowling wise, England also stack up well with their attack led by the world’s top ranked bowler in James Anderson who has combined figures of 9-69 in his two warm up matches.
Despite selection controversies leading into the 1st Test, the home side is expected to be the stronger of the two outfits in the conditions. Their all-NSW attack led by Mitchell Starc has two bowlers capable of reaching 150km/h whilst spinner Nathan Lyon has enjoyed a fruitful year taking 56 wickets in 10 matches at 25.03. For many, he shapes as the main point of difference between the two sides. On the batting front, David Warner averages 70+ in three of his last four home series whilst Steve Smith will be out to prove his standing as the planet’s best Test batsman.
Series High Bat
Steve Smith - $3.50
His claims are impossible to ignore. The Aussie captain averages almost 60 across his 56 Tests and has been dismissed in single figures only twice in his last 21 innings. During the same period, he has scored five centuries.
Josh Hazlewood - $4.50
Described as a genius by Steve Smith after his stellar return to cricket in the 2nd round of the Sheffield Shield, the paceman looks set for a huge summer. In the 2015 Ashes, Hazlewood took 16 wickets in four Tests at 25.75, and those returns are expected to improve considerably when home wickets are factored in to the equation.
Australia (3-1) - $6.00
The Baggy greens haven’t been beaten by England at two of the grounds (WACA and Gabba) since 1990 and have lost just the sole Ashes series in Australia during the same time period. Although England will no doubt have their chances - Adelaide appears their best hope of a win - Steve Smith’s side pack plenty of firepower with the ball which could trouble much of England’s batting line-up in the same way it did in 2013/14.
Value pick: Peter Handscomb for most runs - $12.00