Ed Hawkins previews game one from Brisbane, which starts on Wednesday night, and expects the hosts to hit England hard
"With Starc, Cummins and Hazlewood at their fittest and freshest it could be the start England dreaded. They just need to hold their nerve moving forward"
Australia to win 1st test at [1.8] (2pts)
Australia v England
Thursday 23 November, 00.00
TV: Live on Bt Sport
Up until the point they actually announced their squad for this match, Australia had done a fine impersonation of a well-drilled, settled crew who were going to give their hapless, disorganised opponents a lesson.
It was a smokescreen. Their chronic insecurity about their batting line-up and who should keep wicket was exposed when they made not one but three picks which will either be considered brave or foolish come the end of the series. But either way it seemed a trio of unnecessary gambles.
Matt Renshaw, an opener who had scored 184 in his previous home Test and acquitted himself well on the road, was dropped for Cameron Bancroft. Out went Glenn Maxwell at No 6 for Shaun Marsh, who has been proven not to be good enough. And then Tim Paine, who hasn't played for seven years and was not keeping for his state, was handed the gloves.
Strange. There is a nucleus of a decent team there, though. The gun players are Steve Smith, David Warner, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood. This could be a breakout series for both Usman Khawaja and Pat Cummins, both of whom could be serious players with a bat and ball respectively.
England are not too shabby. And that has to count for something Down Under when English touring teams have looked battered and bruised before a ball has been bowled.
They have faced adversity and, apparently, come through it before the action has begun. The loss of Ben Stokes, and Steven Finn, his replacement, and injury scares to Moeen Ali and Jake Ball had them on the ropes.
But decent warm-up performances have given them confidence and they may have taken another shot in the arm when the Aussies announced their Brisbane mob.
Chris Woakes and Moeen are the key men. They are two all-rounders Australia dream of and they lengthen England's batting. And boy do they need it. Mark Stoneman, James Vince and Dawid Malan put their careers on the line.
Craig Overton and Jake Ball are vying for the final seamer slot alongside Stuart Broad and James Anderson.
In the last 10 Tests the first-innings average is 394. Australia are reliable here for runs. In four of the last six they have scored at least 400. England did well here with the ball last time, keeping the hosts to 295. But they were blown away for 136. That set the tone.
Tone is the key word. Australia will look to hit England hard. England will want to say 'we can take it'. It's a perilous state for the tourists to be in but then they don't call it the Gabbatoir for nowt.
Despite our series preview being keen on England showing some guts, they are up against it on a wicket which is more likely to take them by surprise than anything else. It is fast, very fast. And the ball will be zipping around their heads from ball one.
We expect them to settle into the series but considering England's terrible record here - five defeats and two draws in their last seven - and Australia's sensational record - not beaten since 1988 - it is hard to see past the hosts.
With Starc, Cummins and Hazlewood at their fittest and freshest it could be the start England dreaded. They just need to hold their nerve moving forward.
Australia are [1.81], England [3.9] and the draw [5.0]. The latter looks a little big but faith in these two batting units is very low.
Smith and Peter Handscomb, who will bat at No 4 and No 5, both notched centuries at The Gabba last year against Pakistan. Smith and Khawaja scored half-centuries in the second innings. Smith and Handscomb are [4.2] and [7.6]. Khawaja, on his home ground, is [5.4]. Warner is [4.4].
Only Alastair Cook, who has an epic knock under his belt at the venue, showed any resistance last time with a second-innings fifty. He gets a [4.6] quote. Joe Root is [3.75]. The form of Mark Stoneman and Dawid Malan has impressed in the warm-ups. They are [6.2] and [8.4] respectively. If England are blown away up top, Moeen could be worth a poke but we expect more than [8.0].
Make sure you are following @BetfairExchange in time for the Ashes - cricket trader Paul Krishnamurty will be live tweeting for every day of every Test.
Ed Hawkins P-L
Based only on available prices. Does not include back-to-lay in-running match advice or commission rate. Figures 2013-2016 on 1pt level stakes. New points system (0.5pt-5) introduced for 2017. Includes Hawk-Eye stats column p-l