Anderson’s Ashes absence suggests see-saw series set to continue
Although England are now the odds-on 8/11 Ashes series favourites, they have lost their star bowler James Anderson, who his former teammate and wicketkeeper Matt Prior described earlier this week as being “irreplaceable”.
The hosts are 2-1 up with two Tests to go, but Australia are 11/10 favourites to level the score to 2-2 with the next match being at Trent Bridge.
It has been a huge swing of a see-saw series so far, with both sides thrashing the other in all three encounters this summer to date, with the most recent being an eight-wicket victory in England’s favour at Edgbaston.
In fact, Alastair Cook and co’s last seven Tests, which have been against the Aussies, New Zealand and West Indies, have all alternated between them winning and losing.
So, after England’s win last time out and in the absence of Anderson, who has injured his side, their odds of 21/10 to triumph and thus reclaim the Ashes urn don’t seem tempting enough.
Australia will certainly be raring to bounce back in this almost must-win match for them, like they did at Lord’s with a crushing 405-run win after losing heavily at Cardiff.
Fast left-arm bowlers Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc, who are both 11/4 shouts to be best with the ball in the first innings for the tourists, will need to be on form again.
Supporting acts Josh Hazlewood (3/1) and spinner Nathan Lyon (7/2), meanwhile, have had a decent series to date, but will also need to up their game.
But it is with the bat that the Baggy Greens struggled last time out, with captain Michael Clarke’s miserable form continuing and Steve Smith being unable to cope with Steven Finn’s deliveries.
World number one Test batsman Smith will be hoping to vastly improve on his scores of 7 and 8 at Edgbaston, and get nearer to his terrific 215 at Lord’s. He is 3/1 to get the most runs for his side in the first innings once more.
But his nemesis Finn will be looking to take advantage of his Man of the Match display last time out, after coming in as a replacement for Mark Wood, and continue being the antidote to the previously invincible Smith. Finn is 11/4 to be vest England bowler in the first innings.
Stuart Broad, though, could relish being the most senior seamer, and is also an 11/4 chance in the same market.
With the bat, meanwhile, Ian Bell took his promotion to number three well, despite previously being in woeful form, and he will be hooping to replicate his hundred he hit here in the 2013 Ashes. He is 4/1 to be best first innings England batsman.
But Joe Root continued his fine summer by getting another half century at Edgbaston, and he is the favourite in that market at 11/4.