Ashes First Test Preview

Not long to go now and all cricket lovers are counting down the hours until Alastair Cook and Michael Clarke toss a coin in the middle at Trent Bridge and shake hands before the 2013 Ashes series finally gets under way.

One could add that it would be the end to all the talking, but of course it won’t be, either off or on the pitch. The Aussies may not be as venomous with their sledging as they used to be, but they will still be dishing plenty out, while England’s players aren’t exactly shrinking violets, either.

But it will in the end come down to which team performs better and England go into both the First Test and the Ashes series as strong favourites. There has been some support for Australia in recent days and they are 4/1 with Coral to take home the little urn, but it’s 4/11 England and the home side are also odds-on (10/11) to win at Nottingham this week.

But if Australia are going to make a real fight of it this summer, then there is a case for suggesting that this is when they will be at their most dangerous. Darren Lehmann was, by all accounts, an extremely popular choice to take over as coach from Mickey Arthur, however late in the day, and the theory goes that the impact he has on player application and team spirit will be at its greatest right now.

Lehmann is more than just a good bloke who everybody likes; he won all three domestic titles with Queensland in the last two years he was coach there and clearly knows what he’s doing.

He’s not a miracle-worker, but we’re not talking about lame no-hopers here. Australia are 11/4 to win at Trent Bridge and if their potentially very dangerous seam attack hit the ground running, England could be in for a rude awakening.

James Pattinson (13/5 to be top Aussie bowler) and Mitchell Starc (11/4) are a formidable right handed, left-handed combination, while we can be confident that pit bull Peter Siddle (3/1) will be in there snarling when it all kicks off.

Over the series, one would expect England to eventually gain a stranglehold because they have a pretty good bowling unit of their own, of course, and a superior batting line-up. Cook (100/30 joint favourite with Jonathan Trott to be top home batsman) took them for 766 runs in the last Ashes series Down Under and there are other match-winners right down the order, from Kevin Pieterson, back in the fold after his knee injury, through to the world-class James Anderson and Graeme Swann.

But the Australian team, fresh from a good work-out against Worcestershire last week, are probably feeling better about themselves than they have for a long while and if captain Michael Clark, opener Shane Watson and veteran Chris Rogers can get some runs on the board, they might spring a surprise this week and set the rest of the summer up very nicely.

Written by Jon Freeman