The battle for the urn returns on Thursday night as England and Australia prepare to do battle at Edgbaston.
It’s been a tumultuous 18 months for the Aussies following a thrilling 4-0 victory in the 2017 Ashes series. England, meanwhile, is riding sky-high following last fortnight’s victory in the Cricket World Cup and take full confidence with home-field advantage.
The English weather might bring a dampener to the First Test, but in the broader scheme, this is the most wide-open Ashes series we’ve seen in a long time.
With some fresh faces set to debut for both sides, as well as a pair of welcome returns for the Aussies, the First Test looks to be a great betting match up.
As always, we’ve broken down all the key markets, and our entire Ashes First Test Preview can be read below.
Thursday August 1, 8:00pm, Edgbaston
Head to Head Betting
England has opened as the slight favourite to reclaim the Ashes following last fortnight’s thrilling World Cup victory over New Zealand.
The hosts head to Birmingham beaming with confidence after defeating the Aussies in the Semi-Final, and with a star-studded squad made up of mainstays like Joe Root, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow and the ever electric Moeen Ali, it’s not hard to understand why.
The short turnaround from a six week long World Cup campaign has posed some selection challenges for both squads, but Australia will feel confident knowing Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft will return to the side following last year’s events in Cape Town.
England selectors failed to raise eyebrows with their 17-man squad, choosing to play it safe following a disappointing tour of the West Indies back in February.
Australia, meanwhile, are prepared to roll the dice on uncapped Queenslander Michael Neser, as well as Matthew Wade – who returns to Test cricket for the first time since 2017.
Recent Ashes trends suggest the home side will emerge victorious, even if this year’s series looks evenly matched on paper.
England hasn’t lost a home Ashes series to Australia since 2001, while the Three Lions are also looking for their fifth straight home series win in a row.
For the Aussies, the questions go beyond whether or not Warner and Smith can handle the hostile crowd and conditions.
Australia’s recent Test results tell us to expect the unexpected, especially following India’s first-ever Test win on Australian soil earlier this year. There’s also the question of how the Australian bowling attack will handle the slow pitch conditions, as well as the fitness of Usman Khawaja, who continues to battle a hamstring injury.
While the chance of rain makes the Draw an enticing bet, it’s worth backing England to kick off the series with a win.
England was dominant over Australia in the Semi-Final on the same Edgbaston surface during the World Cup, making the hosts hard to pass up at this price.
Australia hasn’t won an Ashes match at Edgbaston since 2001, so back England with confidence.
Tip: Back England to Win @ $2.00
Australia Top Runscorer – David Warner @ $4.00
Backing an Australian batsman with experience in the English conditions is the smartest play ahead of the First Test.
David Warner more than falls into that category, especially after making a statement with the bat during the World Cup.
Warner averaged just shy of 65 runs against the white ball and will now return to Birmingham after putting up a combined 79 across both innings of work against England back in the 2015 Ashes series.
Other names to watch include Marcus Harris, who performed exceptionally well on debut against India and Sri Lanka over the New Year. Travis Head could also be worth a small wager after earning his first Test century against Sri Lanka in Canberra back in February.
Tip: Back David Warner Top Australian 1st Innings Runscorer @ $4.00
England Top Runscorer – Jason Roy @ $5.50
The batting order is the biggest question mark for England following two catastrophic losses in a three-match series against the West Indies earlier in the year.
Selection wise, this has become somewhat of an issue for England. You could argue having this much talent in the middle order is a good problem to have, but not if the coaches fail to place the right lineups and partnerships on the field – particularly atop the order.
To throw a spanner in the works, England as a team have had very little preparation for this series. England has played only one Test series against Ireland in the leadup to the Ashes, leaving plenty of uncertainty about who might lead the way at the crease.
You could make a case for favourites like Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow down the order, but Jason Roy is the in-form batsman at present.
Roy put up 85 runs against Australia during the World Cup, and also chipped in with 72 during the second innings against Ireland last week. These look nice odds for the 29-year-old to do damage in his Ashes debut.
Tip: Back Jason Roy Top England 1st Innings Runscorer @ $5.50
Australia Top Wicket Taker – Pat Cummins @ $3.50
The world’s No. 1 Test bowler was in sparkling form during India’s tour of Australia earlier in the year.
Cummins has since gone on to have a rather quiet World Cup campaign (at least by his usual standards). But the good news is Cummins holds plenty of strong Ashes form against England.
During the five-match 2017/18 series, Cummins tallied 23 total wickets – eight of which came during a famous performance at the SCG.
The slow Birmingham wicket will challenge the entire Australian bowling attack, so it’s worth backing one of the world’s most elite fast bowlers to lead the way.
Tip: Back Pat Cummins Top Australian 1st Innings Wicket Taker @ $3.50
England Top Wicket Taker – Jofra Archer @ $4.50
Jofra Archer has been called upon to make his Test debut after a commanding World Cup campaign that saw him take 20 wickets across the tournament.
Archer has now taken 23 ODI wickets in his short career and will now be relied upon to carry England’s strong bowling form into the Ashes.
The 24-year-old might take some time to adjust to the style of Test cricket, but don’t be surprised if he has an impact against Australia. Archer has been nursing a side strain in the leadup to Thursday’s opener but looks in outstanding form after claiming 2-21 for Sussex last week.
Tip: Back Jofra Archer Top England 1st Innings Wicket Taker @ $4.50