Ed Hawkins says that despite a poor record in the first match of an away series, the tourists should not be as big as they are for the curtain raiser in Brisbane on Wednesday night...
"Given that we reckon Australia are a cast-iron lay for the outright we could not very well ignore England at such odds"
Australia v England
Start time: 00.00GMT
TV: live on Sky Sports 2
Australia are a much more settled team going into their home series. Before the 3-0 reverse in the summer coach Mickey Arthur was sacked and there were rumours of in-fighting. Under the tutelage of Darren Lehmann they are all pulling in the same direction and are more confident. They have a settled top order with David Warner's return to the side while Steve Smith and George Bailey hope to consolidate their positions at Nos 5 and 6 respectively. There is, however, an injury worry over Shane Watson's hamstring. With the ball, pacers Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle and Mitchell Johnson will be charged with taking 20 wickets. Spinner Nathan Lyon is coming along nicely.
The preparation for Alastair Cook's team has not been the best, but it has hardly been disastrous. Warm-up matches have been shortened by poor weather and there have been injury scares over Matt Prior (calf) and Kevin Pietersen (knee). Both are expected to be fit. England have shuffled the pack. Michael Carberry will open with Cook and Joe Root will drop down to No 6. The other selection switch has been to decide who from Chris Tremlett, Steven Finn and Boyd Rankin should partner Stuart Broad and James Anderson. Tremlett has probably got the nod if bowling coach David Saker is to be believed, unless England are trying a ruse.
There is an in-depth series preview here, which explains why Australia are a solid lay. The hosts are 2.588/5 to back with England 2.3211/8 and the draw 5.39/2. A 2-2 draw is the 8.07/1 favourite in the Correct Score market with a 3-1 repeat for England from the last time they were Down Under next best at 8.615/2.
Do you find it odd that England are favourites to win the series but the outsiders to win at the Gabba? We do. Australia are 2.767/4 and England are 3.39/4. So given that we reckon Australia are a cast-iron lay for the outright we could not very well ignore England at such odds. They may not be as big again.
To understand why England are so inflated is to understand why the odds are wrong. In short, there appears to be too much emphasis on the past, chiefly one win since 1946 for the tourists in Brisbane. Or indeed England's record in Australia which makes for pretty horrible reading: just six wins since 1987. No doubt there is also a worry that England are slow starters on foreign soil. That is true. It is one win in their last 13. Still, England are a better balanced side than Australia. They don't have question marks about their No 5 or No 6. They are not reliant on the fitness of fragile folk (Shane Watson and Ryan Harris). Man for man they do not deserve to be outsiders.
So England it is. The draw is 2.962/1 and we would expect that to trade odds on if runs are in the offing on day one. There are some showers forecast but they are nothing to fret about.
The average first-innings score in the last 10 Tests is an impressive 396. But before you go blindly backing big runs again, it is perhaps not that straightforward. In three of the last five Tests there have been low scores: 214 Australia v New Zealand, 260 England and 295 New Zealand. Indeed, it would be no surprise if we got sub 300 first up because of a combination of nerves and, frankly, two ordinary batting line-ups if the summer was anything to go by.
Michael Clarke, the Australia captain, averages 114.5 in nine Tests at the Gabba and will go off at around 4.84/1. Watson, on his home ground, is 5.85/1. David Warner looks to be the value at 6.411/2 as he has shown sensational form in domestic cricket.
Cook averages 118 in two Tests at the venue so it is no surprise that he gets a 5.24/1 favourite quote. Ian Bell could have a tremendous series to go with his dominance in the summer when he plundered 562 runs. He is 5.69/2. Pietersen is 5.79/2 and Carberry 8.27/1.
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