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Johnson grabs Ashes headlines but shouldn’t demand your money

The announcement of the Australian squad for the first Ashes Test in Brisbane finally shines a light into the dark cavern of betting opportunities for the series.

Australia are 6/4 to win their first Ashes series since their 2006/07 home whitewash of England, while the tourists are the 11/10 favourites and a series stalemate is rated as a 9/2 shot. However, it is in some of the other series betting markets that true value can be found.

The headlines on the Aussie squad swirled around two senior statesmen. One, George Bailey, was given his first taste of a Test squad while the other, Mitchell Johnson, returns to a fold that’s been awfully unkind to him in his career.

Bailey, the Australian T20 captain and ODI deputy, will likely make his debut at the Brisbane Cricket Ground at number six in the batting line-up.

The Tasmanian plundered his way into Test reckoning with destructive ODI performances over the last two months, most recently with his 478 runs at an average of 95.60 in the seven-game series with India.

That makes him the current form player in the Australian side at international level, but his 6/1 price to be the highest scoring host in the series should be swerved.

Why? Well, for starters Bailey’s recent form in white-coloured kit leaves a lot to be desired. He averaged a meagre 18.28 in last season’s Sheffield Shield, the Australian version of the County Championship, and hasn’t recorded a first-class ton for 18 games.

He also scored those runs against India on pitches more friendly to batsmen than a bellhop hunting for tips and in a series where five players averaged over 90.

So instead of siding with Bailey, a punt on the 5/1 chances of opener David Warner leading the way is far more sensible. The punchy left-hander averages close to 50 in Tests in his homeland and doesn’t get that figure north of 29 in any other country.

In addition, all seven of his scores of 50 or more have come in home Test matches and he’s racked up four centuries in his last seven outings in domestic cricket.

Like Bailey, Johnson shouldn’t be backed to be the Aussies’ main pom-basher during this series, despite improved showings of pace and control in the yellow one-day kit recently.

Only Clint McKay (with one more scalp) has removed more batsmen in ODI cricket for Australia since the New Year’s Eve celebrations subsided than Johnson, but with a red ball the left-armer cuts a far less menacing figure and his economy rate of 4.03 against England is more expensive than against any other nation he’s faced.

Instead, the 11/4 on Peter Siddle claiming the most English scalps looks extremely tasty considering he only missed out on the accolade to Ryan Harris in the last Ashes rendition by seven wickets, and has 29 more victims in Tests at home over the past three years than any other compatriot.