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Broad to shove it back up the Aussies!

Okay Aussies. We’ve heard all the baiting and the bluster. And we know that it won’t stop when the Ashes get under way in Brisbane on Thursday. But aside from all the big talk, just what do the hosts have under their Baggy Greens to make England’s boots quake?

Coral go 7/4 England to win at the Gabba and 2/1 Australia (with rain around it’s just 6/4 the draw) which suggests we have a very close contest in store.

We are also promised a tight series overall with England 11/10, Australia 6/4 and 9/2 the draw, but these odds hardly reflect recent form and history between the sides.

Everybody was saying at the end of the last series that Australia had turned a corner and were ready to beat England, but maybe too much was made of their supposed improved mental state. Remember, we beat them 3-0 (following a 3-1 drubbing Down Under) and though a few of our usual lights failed to shine, the team always found something when it was needed.

Australia, though they undoubtedly improved throughout the summer, were second best. And with more or less the same personnel and without a Test victory since January, can they really be so confident of regaining the Ashes, even on their own patch?

All this shouting smacks to me of whistling past the graveyard. It’s all very well Mitchell Johnson predicting blood on the pitch when he gets at the England batsmen – he’s got to hit them first.

And their biggest mistake has been targeting Stuart Broad. This ex-public schoolboy is harder than he looks – toughened up, ironically, by a spell in Australia – and the more he cops it from players, coach, media and fans, the better he will respond.

Broad has blown the Aussies away before and I predict he will again be the star of the show. In their series betting, Coral go 4/5 that he outbowls Peter Siddle, 11/4 he takes the most wickets for England and 5/1 he is leading wicket-taker on either side and I like the look of all of these prices. There’s a good chance he might also pick up a Man Of The Match award along the way – he’s 16/1 in the opener.

A 2-2 drawn series is Coral’s 6/1 favourite but I reckon England, though perhaps just past their peak, are still the better side and take them to return home with that priceless little urn. It could be 3-1 again (7/1), but, conceding that the Aussies may have closed the gap a little, it might go all the way to the wire and finish 3-2 (10/1).

Kevin Pietersen, quite predictably, is another player the Aussies have lost no time getting stuck into, but he won’t wilt under puerile goading either and it would be no surprise if he hit his critics where it hurts most in his 100th Test. Always a man for the big occasion, K.P. is 4/1 with Coral to mark the milestone with a first-innings century.