Australia heads to Old Trafford on Wednesday knowing full well they allowed a golden opportunity to pass them by at Headingley.
With a hefty lead heading into Day 5, a botched run-out and a poor umpiring decision cost Australia the chance at retaining the urn, leaving Justin Langer’s side as the outsiders in the Ashes betting heading into a decisive Fourth Test in Manchester.
In a surprising turn of events, the batting outclassed the bowling for both sides at Leeds, but Australia should feel confident with Steve Smith returning to the side.
With the series all square, this shapes up as a difficult betting matchup with the previous three Tests coming down to the wire.
Fortunately, we’ve previewed everything you need to know, and our Ashes Fourth Test Preview can be read below.
Head to Head
Not since 2013 has an Ashes Test been played at Old Trafford, a match drawn due to rain despite Shane Watson’s strong 176-run performance.
Steady showers are currently forecast for the opening day of play on Wednesday, as well as the weekend, so don’t be surprised if we suffer a handful of rain delays.
When play does resume though, there are a host of storylines to keep a careful eye on. For Australia, its how will Steve Smith respond to Jofra Archer? Will David Warner make a respectable total? And just how bad is Nathan Lyon’s ankle injury?
For England, the biggest question on everyone’s mind is James Anderson. The teams leading Test wicket-taker bowled 20 overs for Lancashire earlier in the week and is now looking to prove his fitness ahead of Wednesday’s opener.
Perhaps the biggest unknown though is Australia’s opening order, which could hold the keys to victory for both sides. As it stands, Usman Khawaja looks likely to open alongside Warner, but with Smith returning to the side, it’s likely Marcus Harris is the odd man out.
England’s fast bowling ripped through the Australian order in the third innings at Headingley, right before Marnus Labuschagne stepped in with another half century-plus.
Steve Smith can rest a little easier knowing Labuschagne can bear some of the load, and if the pair combine for a big total, England could be in real trouble.
If the World Cup taught us anything, its that Old Trafford is a notoriously slow pitch. The wicket was slammed for being “boring” earlier in the year, which should leave ample opportunity for Australia’s best batsman.
England has plenty of reasons to feel confident, but if it wasn’t for Australia’s own mistakes (and the umpires) the urn would already belong to the green and gold. Australia looks well over the odds at this price, and with added motivation to make up for the Third Test, they are worth backing.
Tip: Back Australia to Win @ $2.63
Man of the Match
Steve Smith @ $6.00
A well-rested Steve Smith heads to Old Trafford with a bit of a chip on his shoulder after missing the Third Test due to concussion.
The matchup between Smith and England quick Jofra Archer will be fascinating to watch, but as previously mentioned, Australia’s top batsman may have the last laugh on a slow wicket.
Smith has faced England once before in Manchester, way back in 2013 where he made 89 in the first innings. This is unfamiliar ground for several members of the Australian team, which makes the favourite the safest bet.
Marnus Labuschagne Over 29.5 1st Innings Runs @ $1.85
The Run Total on offer for Labuschagne looks a little short in the first innings considering how dominant he’s been with the bat.
The 25-year-old made 74 in the first innings at Leeds last week before going on to make 84 in the second innings. Labuschagne’s short Test career means he’s never faced the Old Trafford surface, but with a Test strikerate of 49, this Total still seems low.
Australia Top 1st Innings Runscorer
Usman Khawaja @ $6.00
Khawaja is averaging just over 40-runs in Test cricket, but he’s struggled to establish himself during this year’s Ashes series.
Last week at Leeds Khawaja totaled only 31 combined runs, but the good news is his career average skyrockets when opening the batting for Australia, all the way up to a stunning 96.
After playing at Manchester in the early stages of his Test career, don’t be surprised if Khawaja produces a big total.
England Top 1st Innings Wicket Taker
Stuart Broad @ $3.75
Stuart Broad continues to bowl well for England despite Jofra Archer grabbing all the headlines.
The Test veteran took four wickets last week at Headingley and will now head to Old Trafford with plenty of experience on his side.
In four career Test matches in Manchester, Broad has taken 13 wickets. His delivery to clean bowl Travis Head last week was something special, so with confidence on his side, it’s worth backing the favourite on a ground he knows well.