Ed Hawkins previews the action from Brisbane from Wednesday. But will it rain? And are England undercooked?
"To that end, we fear for the England batting line-up which is fragile at the best of times. Their preparation has been hit by the weather and they are undercooked."
Australia v England
Wednesday 8 December, 00:00
TV: live on Sky Sports
Australia get it right
Are Australia in crisis or, thanks to some dubious texting from Tim Paine, stumbled up-on a stronger XI?
Time will tell but it is hard not to reckon that the Aussies have done well to replace Paine as skipper with Renaissance Man Pat Cummins and bring in the Alex Carey, a superior batter, as wicketkeeper.
We were hoping that they would plump for Usman Khawaja at No 5. But instead they've gone for Travis Head. They still look a well-balanced unit.
Sure, there are doubts whether Cameron Green can step up to the highest level but no-one can deny that a guy who has batted big and bowled tight in the first-class game has a great chance.
As the series progresses Australia could use Jhye Richardson instead of Mitchell Starc but we expect the latter to be given the run here, particularly with the pink-ball Test (something of a specialism) looming.
Confirmed XI: Warner, Harris, Labuschagne, Smith, Head, Green, Carey, Cummins, Starc, Hazlewood, Lyon
England could make early rick
Optimism that England could push Australia had been tempered somewhat as rumours began to swirl about their possible selection.
But they look set to make sound selection calls. Haseeb Hameed has seen off the challenge from Zak Crawley. Likewise Ollie Pope from Jonny Bairstow. Both look certain to play now the 12-man squad has been named.
There is no James Anderson, however. England are saving him for the pink-ball Test. That means Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad and Jack Leach are competing for three spots. Mark Wood is a shoo-in
We're assuming that they pick Jack Leach. They certainly should, as explained here.
Probable XI: Burns, Hameed, Malan, Root, Stokes, Pope, Buttler, Robinson, Broad, Wood, Leach
The weather holds the key to what the pitch may or may not do at The Gabba. And it's not an encouraging forecast.
On the first three days there is at least an 80% chance of rain, dropping to 70% on day four.
And even if the skies are clear, the venue has suffered with poor drainage. Overs were lost on day one when the outfield really should have been playable. When they get onto the park, moisture could assist the bowlers.
In the past, Australia have been playing on a different wicket to their visitors. Their last five first-innings scores read: 369/580/323/325/429. The oppositions' read: 336/240/144/302/142. Mind the gap.
Queensland were rolled for 129 in November against Western Australia in the Sheffield Shield.
To that end, we fear for the England batting line-up which is fragile at the best of times. Their preparation has been hit by the weather and they are undercooked.
Taking them on for 275 or more is an option herewhile shorting the innings runs par line in the 280s has potential appeal.
Draw to shorten
Australia are 2.245/4, England are 5.104/1 and the draw is 2.707/4. You can bet on the market here.
The first thing to say is that we expect the draw price to shorten significantly before the off. We would be surprised if it's not close to 2.206/5 on day one with rain. Rarely are we convinced by doom and gloom above and that could well be a lay.
Yet any tick up in Australia's odds has appeal. Yes, they're undercooked, too. But by Jove they will hit England hard in the field. Perhaps the tourists are kidding themselves about that.
Perhaps one element that is forgotten in the hype is results. Australia have not played a Test since the 2-1 home loss to a reserve India team. England have lost six of their last nine, winning once. It's not a high-quality contest.
Joe Root is mighty short at 13/8 to be top England first dig runscorer. Ben Stokes is 7/2 second favourite. Pope is hugely underrated at 8/1 with five wins in 18. Rory Burns top-scored three times against this lot in 2019 so 5/1 is not bat either. Bet both here.
For Australia, the Holy Trinity of Warner-Labuschagne-Smith are 3/1, 3/1 and 5/2 respectively. Labuschagne, a Smith run-machine clone, has a vibe at 5s for a ton in the first-innings. Check others here.
Green could well have his breakthrough series and he enjoyed a half-century in that Shield match last month. He is 9/4 for another. Check others here and the Sportsbook specials.
The Ashes Preview on Cricket...Only Bettor
Ed Hawkins P-L
Based only on available prices. Does not include back-to-lay in-running advice or commission rate. Figures 2013-2016 on 1pt level stakes. Includes Hawk-Eye column p-l
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