The acrimonious end to the first Ashes series of 2013 was far from the end of the competition between England and Australia. Over the course of the next three weeks the two sides will play seven one day games. No famous trophies are at stake, but pride most certainly is.
The first two matches are in the shortest of the international cricket formats, the twenty over a side version known as T20. Taking place today and on Saturday, they will provide something of a pointer to the longer, 50 over a side, internationals which start next week.
Both sides are very much changed from the Ashes series. England are likely to field only three players who played at all – captain Stuart Broad, Joe Root and Steven Finn (who only played in the opening game) – whilst half of the Australian XI will be different, too.
England’s form in this version of the game has been on a downward slope since they won the World T20 competition three years ago. There were some signs of a renaissance against New Zealand earlier in the summer, but the fact that they play so few of these matches has meant it has been hard for them to put out a settled squad. That said, the Nottinghamshire opening pairing of Michael Lumb and Alex Hales will perform the same job down in Southampton today and England will look for them to give the innings the flying start that it will need against a seasoned Australian side.
The man to look for in the England side, though, is Michael Carberry. Recalled to an England squad for the first time since 2009 and after recovering from blood clots on the lungs which ruined his 2012 season, Carberry has thrashed over 500 runs in domestic T20 games this season, is rated by many as the best fielder in England and will be playing on his home ground. If he is selected, back him at 4/1 with William Hill to be England’s top run scorer in the series. If he misses out, then Hales at 11/4 with Paddy Power is your man.
Australia, of course, have their own electric opening partnership. Shane Watson and David Warner could easily have been their openers for the entire Ashes (and were in their second innings at the Oval) and their exciting stroke play will, if it comes off against an England attack lacking the controlling influence of James Anderson and Graeme Swann, be a game changer. Bet365 offers 7/2 on either of these two being Australia’s top run scorers in this two game series for our cricket picks and Warner is probably the better of those two bets.
The Australians have an interesting selection dilemma with their bowling attack. Fawad Ahmed is the former Pakistani bowler whose Australian citizenship application was fast-tracked so that he would be eligible to play in the Ashes. The sudden change of coach from Mickey Arthur to Darren Lehmann seemed to derail that plan (especially once Lehmann had developed an inexplicable love for the anodyne bowling of Ashton Agar) and the Aussies now have to decide whether to risk Ahmed or rely upon the part time spin of Adam Voges and Glenn Maxwell instead.
At present a 1-1 draw is the favored option for this series, trading at even money just about everywhere, but Coral have Australia at 13/5 on their betting odds boardsand that looks a much better option. They are the more experienced side overall and it is also worth noting that in the last three Ashes series, the team who won the Test series lost the T20 series which followed it.
Free Cricket Tips: Take Australia at Ladbrokes