England has been crowned winner of the last two Ashes competitions while Australia has historically been the dominant team. However, since their last meeting, both squads have suffered changes. Then-captains Andrew Strauss and Ricky Ponting have retired and each team has lost a veteran middle-order batsman in Paul Collingwood and Michael Hussey. Previously we examined England's current squad; so it's time then, to take a look at the men who will feature in Australia's lineup in this year’s five-Test contest.
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Michael Clarke (92 Tests, 7275 runs @ 52.33, 30 wickets @ 37.43)
Clarke is something of an enigma. A phenomenally talented batsman who has bucked the trend by actually turning in better performances since becoming captain, and yet a captain who still divides dressing room opinion every bit as much as it did when a teammate grabbed him by the throat to stop him leaving after a match before the ritual of singing the team song had been performed. Those issues will concern Australia less than the back problem which kept him out of cricket for three months and cause him to leave that Indian tour early. He’s a favourite to be the top Aussie batsman, but temper your bets with the knowledge that he might not make it through all five games.
Top Batsman Odds: 9/4 with Sportingbet
Brad Haddin (44 Tests, 2308 runs at 35.50, 164 catches, 5 stumpings)
The veteran keeper was brought back into the squad to provide both experience and some steel to the lower order, as well as to fill the vice-captain role. A wily character who has faced allegations of sharp practice in his career, he is likely to need all of his nous to shore up a shaky looking middle order.
Top Batsman Odds: 16/1 with Spreadex
Shane Watson (41 Tests, 2580 runs @ 35.34, 62 wickets: 30.06)
Watson was thrust into the role of emergency opener in the 2009 Ashes and new coach Darren Lehmann has already announced that he will fill the role this time around. Although capable of a big score here and there, he lacks consistency and would be better suited to a place lower in the order. That said, opening does give him the chance to make runs, so he will be a contender in this market.
Top Batsman Odds: 9/2 with Unibet
Chris Rogers (1 Test, 19 runs at 9.50)
Rogers made his solitary Test appearance in 2008 and has been selected here on the basis of his heavy run scoring in the County Championship. Certainly no batsman on the Australian side has as much experience of English conditions as he does, and whilst it will be a surprise if he repeats that level of scoring here, he could easily outscore his colleagues.
Top Batsman Odds: 5/1 with BetFred
Philip Hughes (24 Tests, 1452 runs @ 33.00)
It is easy to forget that Hughes is still only 24. He’s been around since 2008 and has certainly yet to fulfill the high expectations of him. In 2009 he created an unwanted piece of cricket history by being the first player to get themselves in trouble for their use of Twitter (he announced that he had been dropped) and it is fair to say that that left-hander has yet to make the most of his chances at this level. England worked him out in no time back in 2009 and don’t expect anything different to happen here.
Top Batsman Odds: 10/1 with Spreadex
David Warner (19 Tests, 1263 runs at 39.46)
In the space of a few months, Warner has seamlessly morphed from the great hope of Australian cricket to the bad boy few dare speak of. Clarke aside, he has the highest average of this squad and the only thing likely to count against him in this market is the ban he picked up for assaulting Joe Root last month. If Australia dare play him after three weeks out of the game - and Lehmann has declined to rule that out - then over five games he has to be a strong contender here.
Top Batsman Odds: 17/2 with Paddy Power
Ed Cowan (17 Tests, 987 runs at 32.90)
The likeable Cowan may find himself the odd man out here. He came to England to play for Northamptonshire and gain more experience in local conditions and has been Australia’s designated opener for the last 18 months, but Lehmann’s preference for Watson and Rogers could see him out of the side despite not doing very much wrong.
Top Batsman Odds: 8/1 with Bet365
Usman Khawaja (6 Tests, 263 runs @ 29.22)
Khawaja had a tough debut, replacing the injured Ponting for the final Test of the last Ashes series. Since then he has been a bit part player in the Australian side, but some solid scores in the warm up matches could see him seal the number six spot. If things go against Australia then consistency rather than heavy scoring could be important in this market, so don’t discount him.
Top Batsman Odds: 20/1 with Sportingbet
Steve Smith (7 Tests, 420 runs @ 32.30)
Belatedly added to the squad as cover for Clarke, Smith could have a role to play in this series as a batsman. He was exposed during the last Ashes when batting at six, but showed in India that he has matured as a player and as a batsman. Ostensibly an all-rounder, his leg spin still remains entertainingly risible at this level.
Top Batsman Odds: 25/1 with SkyBet
Matthew Wade (12 Tests, 623 runs @ 34.61, 33 catches, 3 stumpings)
Ostensibly the reserve wicketkeeper, Wade is another who could play as a pure batsman if circumstances permit. If so, his big hitting game could be suited to English pitches reputed to be slower than usual.
Top Batsman Odds: 66/1 with Paddy Power
James Pattinson (10 Tests, 259 runs @ 40.90, 40 wickets @ 23.37)
Pattinson finds himself in a strange position, playing against the country that his brother Darren made a solitary Test appearance for back in 2008. When healthy, he’s a real handful with the ball and a dangerous lower order batsman. Note that ‘when healthy’, though, as he has an appalling injury record and is unlikely to play in all five games.
Top Bowler Odds: 3/1 with Spreadex
Peter Siddle (41 Tests, 788 runs @ 15.76, 150 wickets @ 28.84)
Another one of those enigmas, Siddle puts his recent resurgence and run of good health down to turning vegetarian - something usually contra-indicated for fast bowlers. He’s the only bowler in the party who has played a Test in England before and nowadays the most likely to stay fit, too. Both are significant considerations in this market.
Top Bowler Odds: 4/1 with BetVictor
Mitchell Starc (9 Tests, 327 runs @ 32.70, 30 wickets @ 34.03)
England fans were disappointed when their favorite whipping boy, Mitchell Johnson, was left out of the tour party. They might give more respect to Starc, who combines having the same first name and being a left arm pace bowler with a greater degree of accuracy than Johnson. He is, though, another who has been plagued with injury problems and a strike rate of 57 isn’t going to strike that much fear into English batsmen, either.
Top Bowler Odds: 4/1 with Stan James
Nathan Lyon (22 Tests, 232 runs @ 14.50, 76 wickets @ 33.18)
This could be a busy series for Lyon if the rumored spin-friendly wickets materialise. This is a chance for the Australian to show that he can compete with a premier spin bowler like Swann and he needs careful consideration simply because of the sheer amount of bowling he is likely to get.
Top Bowler Odds: 7/1 with Spreadex
Ryan Harris (12 Tests, 212 runs @ 17.66, 47 wickets @ 23.63)
Harris set an unwanted niche in Ashes history in the last series, when he became one of the very few batsmen in Test history to record a ‘king pair’ - being out first ball in both innings of the match. He is in the side for his bowling, which is very effective (if untested in English conditions), but comes with a bowling action which puts such strain on his body that he has yet to last a full series.
Top Bowler Odds: 8/1 with Betfair
Jackson Bird (2 Tests, 6 runs @ 6.00, 11 wickets @ 16.18)
The gangling fast bowler has performed well in the warm up games but it will probably need a breakdown by a couple of the other bowlers for him to get a chance.
Top Bowler Odds: 12/1 with Spreadex
James Faulkner (uncapped)
Something of a wild card, he has been impressive in one day internationals but may lack the incisiveness to make an impact at Test level. He’s decent odds but would be a completely blind punt.
Top Bowler Odds: 16/1 with Stan James
Ashton Agar (uncapped)
The 19-year-old left arm spinner is officially with the party in a development capacity only, but if those wickets really do turn he could come into contention. England’s coaches will remember the unknown Peter Taylor bowling them out of the fifth Test in 1988 and view Agar with a little trepidation, but nothing we have seen so far suggests that he is anything other than a promising youngster who would be overmatched at this level.
Top Bowler Odds: 33/1 with Stan James
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