Ed Hawkins picks a probable starting XI for the hosts and uncovers the best betting angles...
"If you think about the pressure on Cummins, Starc's fragility and England's probable rotation policy he may have very little to beat"
Last three years runs per innings: 57.9
Last three years top bat win %: 8.3
Warner is revitalised. A confidence-restoring knock against an innocuous West Indies attack in the T20 World Cup suddenly had his supporters saying 'told you so'. And, to be fair, he continued to plunder quick runs in the knockouts as Australia lifted the trophy. But doesn't he personify this Australia team? One which is harking back to past glories with evidence of diminishing returns ignored with one-off efforts? Almost half of Warner's first-innings runs in the last three years came in one outing against Pakistan. Without that unbeaten 335 he has an RPI of 32.7.
Last three years runs per 1st innings: 28.1
Last three years 1st inns top bat return %: 30
Harris is compact and organised. That's a good start for an opening bat. With Will Pucovski unavailable, Harris gets the chance to nail down a spot. His two top-bat wins both came at home and he also has a shared honours. Suspect if the ball nibbles away.
Last three years runs per 1st innings: 91.7
Last three years 1st inns top bat win %: 37.5
That first figure is not a typo. Labuschagne is the true run machine of this Australia team. Hopefully because of Steve Smith's reputation and Warner's comeback, this quirky character could slip under the radar. Pretty much a guaranteed wager for top bat in the first dig in Brisbane. And there's nothing wrong with the 9/4 about him top scoring in the series for Australia or the 7/2 overall top bat, both with Sportsbook.
Last three years runs per 1st innings: 71.2
Last three years 1st inns top bat win %: 38.4
Smith's numbers don't tell the whole story. Since he top-batted in the four matches he played in the previous Ashes - and went off at even money at The Oval - he has won once in nine. He is 7/5 and 5/2 jolly respectively for top Australia and series runscorer.
Last three years runs per 1st innings: 16.5
Last three years 1st inns top bat win %: 0
Khawaja's numbers make for grim reading. But don't be fooled. He's a back-foot player who thrives at home and is in sensational form. He is expected to pip Travis Head for the final batting slot after two tons domestically. Would also make an energising and thoughtful skipper. Looks underrated at 14s for top Australia bat.
Last three years runs per 1st innings: 27.1
Last three years 1st inns top bat returns %: 11.7
Tim Paine's career may not survive long enough to be involved for the first Test after he resigned the captaincy due to the 'sexting' cover-up. Famously has never scored a Test century. Sportsbook make him 6/4 to get one. Oh for the chance to back the other side and have the biggest bet of all time. Australia a much better side without him leading (remember him bowling first at The Oval?) and probably a better side with Alex Carey taking the gloves, too. England praying he plays.
Last three years runs per 1st innings: 17.5
Last three years 1st inns top bat win %: 0
Last three years bowling SR 1st innings: -
Last three years 1st inns top bowler returns %: 0
The man in possession of the all-rounder role. Much is expected of this 22-year-old from Western Australia. He's a batsman who bowls and if replicates first-class numbers will be a superstar. Only four Tests into his career. Michael Neser is breathing down his neck. Mitchell Marsh may get a game, too, before the series is out.
Last three years bowling SR 1st innings: 51.1
Last three years 1st inns top bowler returns %: 30
Cummins may well have been named the new captain by the time you read this. Does this make him a better bet at 3/1 for top series wicket-taker or a worse one? He could bowl himself more, which leads to the opportunity for more wickets. And more injuries.
Last three years bowling SR 1st innings: 43.8
Last three years 1st inns top bowler returns %: 37.5
Starc boasts the best strike rate in the first dig but lags behind Cummins and Josh Hazlewood in the second. Doubts about whether he can keep fit for a packed Ashes schedule and Jhye Richardson is a ready-made replacement.
Last three years bowling SR 1st innings: 53.5
Last three years 1st inns top bowler returns %: 33.3
Hazlewood is 5/1 for top series wicket-taker. It looks a chunky price given his durability and metronomic line and length just outside off. And if you think about the pressure on Cummins, Starc's fragility and England's probable rotation policy he may have very little to beat.
Last three years bowling SR 1st innings: 90.4
Last three years 1st inns top bowler returns %: 20
Lyon is almost twice as deadly in the second-innings as he is in the first. As you would expect. He is probably the one true difference between the teams. England don't have a spinner to set their watch by, Australia do.
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