Discipline problems in the camp, a change of coach just a fortnight before the first ball is bowled and questions marks over the form, both of certain individuals and the team as a whole; it’s fair to say Australia’s Ashes preparations have been far from ideal.
However, all of the problems in the world wouldn’t make the Baggy Greens anything less than ultra-competitive against the ‘poms’ and they will still be a major threat across all five Test matches, especially as the early signs indicate that the tourists are responding to the leadership of new coach Darren Lehmann.
Nevertheless, England are still strong favourites to retain the urn, Winner.com rating them at 2/5 to overcome the Aussies, BetVictor’s 9/2 outsiders, while bet365 post 13/2 against the series finishing all square.
Some pundits have been getting ahead of themselves slightly and suggesting a whitewash is a possibility for Alistair Cook and co. but Paddy Power’s 14/1 for a 5-0 home triumph is a touch ambitious given the fact that England have one or two problems of their own to contend with.
Consider also that the weather on these shores will inevitably play a role at some stage and it seems unlikely that there will be a result in all five clashes, something the bookies acknowledge by making a 3-1 success for England the 6/1 (Skybet) favourite in the correct score betting. A closer 2-1 victory though, is arguably slightly more appealing at 8/1 courtesy of BetVictor.
The hosts’ skipper Alistair Cook is a worthy market leader at 3/1 via Stan James to top score for his team with the bat despite bet365’s 7/2 chance, Kevin Pietersen’s return to the side and where the Australians are concerned, bookies can’t see further than Michael Clarke, priced by William Hill at 15/8 to be the tourists chief run-accumulator.
Ladbrokes mark 2/1 against James Anderson racking up the most wickets for England and the doubts surrounding the fitness of Graeme Swann (3/1, BetVictor) lend appeal to that price. Stan James meanwhile, offer an enticing 5/2 about James Pattinson removing the most opposition batsmen for the Baggy Greens.
Finally, in the first Test, which gets under way next Wednesday, England are a shade of odds-on at 17/20 with Betway to take a 1-0 lead. Bet365 make Australia 7/2 and Ladbrokes quote the draw at 5/2 but although the hosts have to be favoured, punters might be well advised to wait for a weather update before committing to a wager.