Australia won the First Test by 251 runs and head to Lord’s intent on reinforcing their grip on the five-match Ashes series.Yet England were ahead for much of the first three days at Edgbaston. Don’t allow the visitor’s large margin of victory to influence your betting – there is nothing between the two sides.
What promises to be a tightly contested Ashes series heads to the Home of Cricket with everything to play for.
James Buttler analyses the play so far and puts up the best bets for the Second Test at Lord’s…
Test 1 result
ENGLAND DOWN BUT BY NO MEANS OUT
My bet on Jimmy Anderson to be Player of the Series appears to have lasted only four overs before he limped off with a recurrence of a calf injury. Many are writing off England’s chances of regaining the urn just as quickly. That is too hasty a knee-jerk reaction with four Tests to play and Jofra Archer ready to add his sprinkling of pixie dust to England’s bowling attack.
The difference between the sides at Edgbaston was SteveSmith. The key to the destination of the series is whether England can find a way of getting him out. Smith may be a human being, but he is a freak of nature with a technique that bamboozles everyone but himself.
Since the Oval Test in 2015, Smith has scored 1116 runs in 10 Ashes knocks at an average of 139.5. The full sequence is 143, 141*, 40, 6, 239, 76, 102*, 83, 144 and 142. England have to find a way to counter his genius.
Other than a terrific hundred from Matthew Wade and a Travis Head fifty the remainder of the Aussies showed little with the bat.
Joe Root has to find a way to contain the former Australian captain’s ridiculous levels of concentration otherwise there isa danger he will singlehandedly retain the urn for his country.
THE LORD’S EFFECT
After Australia picked up their first win at Edgbaston since 2001 they head to Lord’s, which historically has been a happy hunting ground for the visiting side.
The Aussies have won eight of the last 11 Tests played at Lord’s and took the last match by a 405-run margin in 2015. But two of those England victories came in the preceding two Lord’s Tests in 2009 and 2013, so it is not all doom and gloom for Joe Root’s men.
Winning the toss and batting at Lord’s is the best strategy. The last four Ashes Tests at the Home of Cricket have been won comfortably by the side batting first. When picking your winner that is a key stat to remember. The pressure is on England who need to win the series outright to regain the Ashes which are currently in the Australian’s grasp.
AUSTRALIA DOING BETTER THAN EVEN THEY EXPECTED
The return of the Sandpapergate trio has boosted Australia. Australians I spoke to prior to the Ashes were concerned that their side would struggle to win a Test after a tough 18 months.
The First Test win has given the Justin Langer coached side a sudden confidence boost. But don’t start believing that Steve Smith’s heroics and one victory, that ultimately owed a lot to winning the toss, has suddenly made everything perfect in the Australian side. In English conditions many of the batsman look far from equipped to prosper and if they are served up similar pitches the pace attack is far less effective than on the fast, bouncy tracks back home.
BOTH TEAMS A WORK IN PROGRESS
One of the reasons this Ashes series is exciting is that both sides are flawed. England are up and down more than a…(insert your own rude punchline that I’d get sacked for). The top three in the order are prone to failure, although Rory Burns maiden Test century was distinctly promising. The middle-order, so often the salvation, has also begun to look rocky. And with Anderson injured and Moeen woefully out of form at Edgbaston, there is a lot to work on.
England have not lost two games in a row against the same side in Tests since being defeated by West Indies in early 2018. But the last time England lost back-to-back Tests on home soil was back in way 2008 against South Africa. The last 10 times England lost a home Test match they have bounced back with a win in the next game.
Nathan Lyon and Pat Cummins were the pick of the Australian bowlers in the First Test but with Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood sitting out the first game it is highly likely that the tourists will constantly change their seam attack to spread the workload during a series that brings the action thick and fast. The only other change could see Marcus Harris replace Cameron Bancroft as opener, but the chances are they will stick as close as possible to the side that claimed the opening win.
Moeen Ali paid the price for a dismal all-round display at Edgbaston and has been replaced by Jack Leach, who was the man of the match for his nightwatchman batting heroics against Ireland at Lord’s last month. Jofra Archer, star of the recent World Cup success, has been called into the Test squad for the first time to replace Jimmy Anderson. Olly Stone, who was in the squad for the first match, has also been ruled out because of injury. It is likely both Leach and Archer will play with Sam Curran the only man to miss out from the 12-man squad.
THE BEST IN-MATCH MARKETS
Rory Burns was great at Edgbaston but at this stage of his career he is unlikely to replicate landing the England Top Batsman market. Jason Roy should not be opening in Tests or backed, Joe Denly, Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler are struggling for runs, so that leaves us with two decent picks.
Joe Root is the best batsman in the England side and has the ability to guts it out if not in peak nick. At 100/30 with Bet365 he is the sensible play and it makes sense to also back Ben Stokes with a lesser stake at 6/1 with Betfair as he has been in fine form so far this summer.
For Australia, Steve Smith’s First Test performance has seen him squeezed to 7/4 with SkyBet. It is what it is, he is prolific, but it’s not my kind of price in a market like this. He is human after all, although that is yet to be confirmed by a specialist.
With the price on Smith so skinny, it does mean the other contenders are a little more attractive. David Warner experienced two failures in Birmingham and is always worth a look and Matthew Wade is fresh from notching his third Test ton, but Travis Head caught my eye with 35 and 51 and a century in the recent county match against Worcestershire. Head is potentially primed to take over from Tim Paine as Australia’s captain and at 8/1 with BetFred is a nice price if you want to oppose Smith in this market.
Finally, Jofra Archer has stardust, magic, X-factor, but basically is just a fine player. England are hopeful that his extra pace could unsettle Smith and he has already shown a mindset that deals with pressure and expectation. If Archer’s summer continues to unravel with further success, he is going to become a big hero with the Barmy Army and is a nice play at 14/1 with William Hill to be Man of the Match. A scorching debut is exactly the kind of thing Jofra does!
CAN ENGLAND BOUNCE BACK?
The short answer is ‘yes’. Since the aforementioned back-to-back Test losses in a series defeat to South Africa in 2008 England have won 14 home series, drawn two and lost only three (all short series defeats). In that period England have won 42 home Tests, drawn 11 and lost 16. This is an England side that are used to success in their own back yard. Again, further ammunition to back England, particularly if they bat first at Lord’s.