After a build-up fraught with uncertainty and controversy, the 2021 Ashes finally gets underway tonight with Brisbane hosting the first of five tests down under.

Players and fans alike will be relieved to finally focus on the cricket, provided the weather holds with thunderstorms forecasted to interrupt the first test.

Ashes Winner Odds

The series winner market makes grim reading for England fans with the hosts a best price of 9/11 to win the Ashes and 1/6 to retain. However, if you do fancy Joe Root's team to pull off an upset you can currently find them at best odds of 9/2 to win the series overall.

Despite the odds predicting a dominant Australian performance, there are plenty of unknowns that could throw up some value in the betting markets.

Australia are third in the ICC world rankings, but given their lack of test cricket in recent years, the 1,844 points they've accumulated don't represent a huge sample size, especially in comparison to England who have already played four series since the start of the year and sit just one spot behind them in the rankings.

To add to the uncertainty, England travel to Australia with several players yet to play a Test in Australia, including the likes of Jos Buttler and Ollie Robinson.

The home team also head into the series with a new captain in the form of Pat Cummins after Tim Paine resigned the captaincy and withdrew from the squad at the end of last month.

Ashes Batting Lineups

The struggles of England's top order remains the primary concern for Joe Root who has ended up shouldering virtually all the run-scoring responsibility this year. The England captain's 1,455 test runs in 2021 have been crucial in his team's modest success this summer, it's no surprise he's the clear favourite to be England's top run-scorer at 13/8 with the returning Ben Stokes the second favourite at 5/1.

The only player who can be found at a shorter price in the overall batting market is Steve Smith who's dominance in this fixture in recent years earns him a spot at the top of the market and a best price of 5/2 to be the series top batsman.

Steve Smith's average of 137 in the 2017-18 series is a stark reminder of his quality on home soil and his price of 11/5 to be Australia's top batsman reflects his reputation. Behind him in the Top Australian Batsman market is Marnus Labuschagne and David Warner at 3/1 and 7/2 respectively. Despite an underwhelming performance against England in 2019, expect Warner to be buoyed by his T20 form and draw confidence from his record in Australian conditions, 7/2 looks to be a good price for him to be Top Australian Batsman.

Ashes Bowling Lineups

Stuart Broad and James Anderson's modest record in Australian conditions may pave the way for a breakout series for the likes of Mark Wood and Ollie Robinson. Robinson in particular is worth keeping an eye on, his untapped Ashes potential and a bowling action that many have suggested may marry up well with conditions down under could provide England with a real threat.

At 4/1 second favourite, Robinson certainly looks the value bet in the Top England Bowler market and may also be worth a small play in the Top Overall Bowler market at a best price of 16/1 despite being as short as 7/1 elsewhere.

It's no surprise that Australia's experienced bowling lineup make up the top 4 selections in the overall Top Series Bowler market. Newly-appointed captain, Pat Cummins is the current favourite at a best price of 7/2 with Josh Hazelwood, Nathan Lyon and Mitchell Starc all expected to be near the top of the wickets table when the series concludes on January 18th 2022.

Ashes Score Prediction

While England have been dealt a big boost with Stokes' return, without a full-strength side their chances of victory throughout the series looks remote. However, doubts remain over Australia's lack of test cricket and that may well help England claim victory in at least one test.

With the weather likely to have a say in the opening Test, a 3-1 home victory in the correct score market looks fair value at 9/2 despite being the shortest price in the market.