1st Ashes Test Preview – Australia v England
Thursday November 23, 11am AEDT – The Gabba, Brisbane
The Australian selectors have thrown a few curve balls in the lead-up to the 1st Ashes Test at The Gabba on Thursday. They’ve lost their faith in opener Matthew Renshaw after a tough Test series in Bangladesh and a poor run of outs in Sheffield Shield cricket which saw the QLD youngster make just 70 runs in six innings. WA opener Cameron Bancroft replaces Renshaw at the top of the order, fresh off 228* against South Australia in Shield cricket. Shaun Marsh has been given yet another chance to cement the No.6 position, a move away from a bowling all-rounder like Glenn Maxwell or Hilton Cartwright. The other surprise was Tim Paine taking the keeping gloves off Matthew Wade. It’s been a long wait for Paine after he suffered a serious finger injury when he looked poised to take Brad Haddin’s spot. In a strange twist of fate, Paine has been playing at Tasmania as a specialist batsman, with Wade retaining the keeping gloves. James Vince will bat at No.3 for England, while it will be a battle between Jake Ball or Craig Overton for the fourth seamer spot behind James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes. Ben Stokes is unlikely to play in the first two Tests but there is reports he could play in Perth if he gets clearance.
Pitch and Conditions
There is medium chance of showers, most likely in the morning or afternoon when the 1st Test gets underway at The Gabba on Thursday. Curator Kevin Mitchell has said that the Gabba wicket could be slightly greener with cloud cover around during the week, but it will maintain its traditional bounce. It is expected to be a good batting deck once it settles down and will hold up for the five days if the Test goes the distance.
Australia drew with Bangladesh 1-1 in their most recent Test series, hardly the ideal preparation for an Ashes campaign. Instead the Test stars have been allowed to play three Sheffield Shield rounds in preparation for the upcoming Ashes. Australia swept Pakistan 3-0 in their most recent home Test series last summer. Australia defeated Pakistan in the 1st Test at The Gabba by 39 runs, with both Steve Smith (130) and Peter Handscomb (105) posting centuries in Australia’s 1st innings. Meanwhile, England defeated the West Indies 2-1 in their home Test series back in September and have had one tour match against WA and two tour matches against a Cricket Australia XI in preparation for the Ashes series. English opening batsman Mark Stoneman has looked good in the warm-up matches, with 85 against WA and scores of 61,51 and 111 against the CA XI across their two matches. The main concern for England coming out of the most recent warm-up match against the CA XI was their inability to dismiss them for a second time. All-rounder Chris Woakes picked up six first-innings wickets, but the CA XI pair of Jason Sangha (133) and Matt Short (134*) provided stiff resistance as the match finished as a draw.
Stats That Matter
– Australia have not lost a Test at The Gabba since the West Indies in 1988 (21 wins and 7 draws)
– Australia have won 6 of their last 7 home Test series (Lost to South Africa 2-1 in the 2016/17 season)
– Australia swept England 5-0 in the last Ashes series in Australia during the 2013/14 season.
– England defeated Australia 3-2 in the 2015 Ashes series in England and only need to draw the series to retain the urn.
– Usman Khawaja averages 74.75 from six Test innings at The Gabba.
– Steve Smith (130) and Peter Handscomb (105) both made centuries in Australia’s last Test match at the Gabba.
– Steve Smith made 143 in Australia’s most recent Test match against England at The Oval (5th Test, 2015)
– David Warner averages 44.95 in 25 Test innings against England.
– Stuart Broad has 84 Test wickets against Australia, with best figures of 8/15 (4th best all-time bowling figures in an innings in an Ashes Test match)
– Stuart Broad had match figures of 8/136 in the 2013 Ashes Test at The Gabba.
It’s hard to go past Australia in the opening Test of the Ashes series, especially at The Gabba where their record is phenomenal. Australia hasn’t lost a Test at The Gabba since 1988 and a few of the inexperienced English batsmen could be vulnerable playing their first Test series in Australia. Australia’s fortunes will once again rely on the contributions of David Warner and Steve Smith with the bat, while the absence of Ben Stokes is a massive blow for England. The inability of England’s bowlers to dismiss a CA XI for a second time in the recent warm-up match is hardly the ideal preparation heading into a series opener. The Wolf is tipping Australia to leave The Gabba with a 1-0 series lead.
The Wolf is predicting that the cream will rise to the top when it comes to his series bets.
Series Winner – Australia ($1.36)
The Wolf is expecting Australia to get off to a flier at The Gabba, a ground where they haven’t lost a Test match since 1988. A good win in Brisbane will set up the series and put the pressure on an English side, looking vulnerable in the middle order and missing the all-important Ben Stokes for either the entire Ashes series or at least until the 3rd Test if reports are correct. The home side has won the last three Ashes series.
Top Australian Series Runscorer – Steve Smith ($2.60)
Steve Smith has made five centuries and averages 43.19 against England. He made 143 in his last Test match against England and also posted a century in his last Test outing at The Gabba.
Top English Series Runscorer – Joe Root ($2.25)
Like Steve Smith is to Australia, Joe Root is the glue that holds this English side together. Root has three centuries and an average of 41.29 against Australia.
Top Australian Series Wicket Taker – Mitchell Starc ($2.75)
Mitchell Starc is in outstanding form approaching the Ashes series. He took match figures of 10/119 in NSW’s Shield game against SA and then followed it up with two hat-tricks against WA. He’ll be chomping at the bit to the get to the likes of Stoneman, Vince and Malan.
Top English Series Wicket Taker – Stuart Broad ($3.75)
He might be enemy No.1 in Australia, but Stuart Broad loves playing against the Aussies. He has 84 Test wickets against Australia, with best figures of 8/15 (4th best all-time bowling figures in an innings in an Ashes Test match) and had match figures of 8/136 in the 2013 Ashes Test at The Gabba. He’ll need to fire to take the pressure off England’s No.1 bowler, Jimmy Anderson.
1st Test Betting
The Wolf has already made his case on Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc and Stuart Broad with his series bets, but he is keen to play the value around Dawid Malan in the 1st Test.
Top English Batsman (1st Innings) – Dawid Malan ($7.50)
The Wolf is expecting the likes of Starc and Hazlewood to expose the English top order, presenting the opportunity for Malan to deliver with the bat. He only has five Test matches under his belt, but the signs were encouraging in England’s warm-up matches. He made 56 against WA and then had scores of 63, 5 and 109 against the CA XI. He’s coming off a century and is worth a shot at the price.