England have won the last two Ashes contests, but over the course of the past three decades it is Australia who have been the dominant side. Both teams have seen significant change since the last series. 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. In this installement of our series of Ashes Cricket coverage, we review England's team (don't forget to also check out our breakdown of Australia's roster).
New to cricket betting? Check out our Tips & Strategies!
Alastair Cook (92 Tests, 7524 runs @ 49.17)
Cook took over as England captain upon Strauss’ surprise retirement last autumn. He had been groomed for the job practically since he first came into the team in 2006 and immediately took to the role, leading England to their first series win in India since the 1980s and guiding them through two tricky series against New Zealand. There is a feeling that his batting, so crucial to his team’s chances - let us not forget how he blunted Australia’s vaunted pace attack last time around - has dropped off slightly under the pressure of captaincy, but that is not uncommon in the toughest of cricket arenas. More worryingly for England, there are times where he seems bereft of ideas in the field, unable to work his way out of tricky situations as his predecessor used to do. It is no exaggeration to say that his all-round performance will be key to England’s chances of success.
Top Batsman Odds: 3/1 with Stan James
Joe Root (6 Tests, 424 runs @ 42.40)
If ever there was a baptism of fire, this is it. England have taken the bold decision to dispense with Strauss’ replacement Nick Compton and to promote their youngest player, Root, up the order to open with his captain. The 22-year-old has looked assured in his first few Tests, but all of those runs, including a maiden hundred last time out, were made from the relative calm of the middle order. You can be sure that the Australians will target him as a weak link in the England side and the Yorkshireman has much to prove.
Top Batsman Odds: 5/1 with William Hill
Jonathan Trott (43 Tests, 3451 runs @ 50.01, 4 wickets @ 92.50)
Like him or loathe him, there is no denying the class of England’s number three. The man who made a game changing hundred on debut in the final game of the 2009 Ashes is now one of the best batsmen in the world (one of only three to average over 50 in both Test and one-day cricket). His compulsive scratching at the crease and measured approach don’t find favour with many, but he has to be a serious contender for top run scorer in this series.
Top Batsman Odds: 7/2 with Totesport
Kevin Pietersen (94 Tests, 7499 runs @ 49.01, 10 wickets @ 86.90)
If one man knows how Root will feel, it is Pietersen. Controversially called up to replace veteran Graham Thorpe for the 2005 series, he was an immediate success and has been a tremendous presence in the side ever since. Root will hope to emulate that, but Pietersen has his own point to prove as he returns to Test cricket after missing several months with a knee injury. England -and Pietersen- will be hoping that the second-oldest man in the side can relive past glories in what may be his final Ashes series in England.
Top Batsman Odds: 4/1 with SkyBet
Ian Bell (88 Tests, 5925 runs @ 45.57)
Australian cricket writer Jarrod Kimber opined during the 2009 Ashes that, if he were an eccentric billionaire, he would keep Bell in a gilded cage and make him play cover drives all day. Yet Bell remains an endlessly frustrating cricketer, stylish and yet prone to great acts of folly. He is the only other remaining member of that 2005 side and has been a near-continuous presence in the side since then, but that average is a good five runs shy of where a batsman of his talent should be. He’s a long shot bet to be England’s top run scorer, but should find these Ashes pitches to his liking and has no excuse for not scoring big runs here.
Top Batsman Odds: 8/1 with Spreadex
Jonny Bairstow (8 Tests, 341 runs at 31.00)
Few cricketers inspire as much affection as the young Yorkshireman. The son of David Bairstow, the much-loved Yorkshire wicketkeeper who played a handful of Tests for England in the 1980s and who tragically committed suicide in 1998, the goodwill that the public has towards him is almost unprecedented. Rarely has a player been so willed to succeed. His career has got off to a slow start, but that average of 31 would be considered quite acceptable in lesser sides and he now has to build upon it to maintain his place. Barring injury or a dramatic loss of form he should be assured of a place in all five Tests and his 95 against South Africa last year to almost win the game at Lord’s shows what he is capable of.
Top Batsman Odds: 16/1 with Spreadex
Matt Prior (67 Tests, 3680 runs @44.33, 189 catches, 13 stumpings)
Arguably the best wicketkeeper in Test cricket, Prior has not only been a mainstay of England’s fielding effort for years but of their batting lineup, too. The only other ‘keeper who can rival his average is South African AB de Villiers, and he has played the vast majority of his games as a specialist batsman. If this contest proves closer than the markets expect, his price will begin to look very attractive because he seems to thrive on the responsibility of being the man to bale England out when things go badly.
Top Batsman Odds: 16/1 with Spreadex
Tim Bresnan (18 Tests, 438 runs at 31.28, 57 wickets at 32.54)
The third Yorkshireman in the party, Bresnan was for some time a talisman of this England side, winning all of his first twelve Tests and only being denied by rain in the thirteenth. A solid performer with both bat and ball, he faces competition for this spot but his superior batting to his rivals should secure him the place. If there are plenty of overcast days, he’ll challenge for the leading wicket-taker award, though there are always concerns about his ability to last a whole series and he is just coming back from elbow surgery.
Top Bowler Odds: 16/1 with Sportingbet
Stuart Broad (57 Tests, 1676 runs @ 24.64, 195 wickets @ 30.93)
Another who has arguably not lived up to their early promise, Broad has yet to fully grasp the role of leading the England attack and his erratic displays led to him losing his place in the side in India. When he does get it right, however, he is as dangerous as any bowler in world cricket.
Top Bowler Odds: 7/2 with Spreadex
Graeme Swann (58 Tests, 1208 runs @ 23.23, 222 wickets @ 28.50)
It is a slightly sobering thought that England’s court jester is now the oldest man in the side. Age has, if anything, enhanced Swann’s skills and he now has more international wickets for England than any other off-spinner. Rumour has it that Australia’s dearth of talent in the slow bowling field, coupled with their travails against spin in India over the winter, mean that there will be pitches prepared to suit Swann during this series, so he is a serious contender in this market.
Top Bowler Odds: 11/4 with Coral
James Anderson (82 Tests, 751 runs @ 10.72, 307 wickets @ 30.14)
Anderson now stands fourth on England’s list of all-time wicket takers and will move past the great Fred Trueman with his third wicket of this series. There is no doubt that he belongs up there with Trueman, Bob Willis and Ian Botham, a bowler capable of the speed of the first two and with the swing and devilment of the last. He’s a clear favorite in this market, and with good reason.
Top Bowler Odds: 15/8 with Stan James
Steven Finn (22 Tests, 167 runs @ 11.92, 88 wickets @ 28.73)
The quickest of the England bowlers, Finn is nonetheless likely to miss out unless any pitch looks particularly pacey. That is harsh on a man who is the most economical of the fast bowlers in the squad, but at 24 he has plenty of time ahead of him. Lack of opportunity likely to blight his chances in this market.
Top Bowler Odds: 6/1 with Ladbrokes
Graham Onions (9 Tests, 30 runs @ 10.00, 32 wickets @ 29.90)
Injuries have hampered Onions’ international career and whilst he has never let his country down with the ball he is very much relying upon someone else in the squad to break down in order to get a chance here.
Top Bowler Odds: 20/1 with Bet365
For more sports betting odds, picks and predictions, visit SBRForum.com!