England will tour Australia for the Ashes - a series of five grueling test matches between the two nations contested at least once in every four years - to be played between November 23, 2017 and January 8, 2018. The first test will be played at The Gabba and the second at the Adelaide Oval which will be the first ever day/night Ashes test match. The WACA Ground in Perth has been confirmed to host the third test of the series which is expected to be the final test to be played at this venue before the opening of the new Perth Stadium. The series will then move on to the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the fourth match while the final test will be held at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
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Read on for team analysis, latest outright winner odds, betting tips and series prediction for the Ashes 2017-18….
There is a bitter pay dispute going on between the Australian players and their board Cricket Australia and neither is looking to budge at the moment. If the issue does not get sorted out in time, it could be that a large part of the team may not participate in the Ashes 2017-18 or the series might not happen at all.
With 18 centuries and 24 fifties, David Warner is the leading run-scorer in tests in the current lot of Australian players. If not dismissed early on in his innings, the opener tends to rack up a big score and takes the game away from the opposition on the first day itself. Steven Smith is another vital component in the Aussie batting lineup. The skipper is averaging 61.05 in this format and he topped the runs charts in Australia's test tour of India earlier this year.
Among the key bowlers are Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood. With 148 and 118 test scalps respectively, the two pacers are expected to be absolutely lethal on these fast and bouncy Australian pitches. Offspinner Nathan Lyon stood out as one of the best bowlers for Australia on that India tour and the spin department will rely heavily on him.
Australia have won 6 of their past 10 test series and 6 of their past 7 test series at home. Only South Africa have been able to beat them since 2012 and that too twice (once in 2012 and then recently in 2016). They played their last test series in India in February-March this year; a closely-fought series which they ended up losing by 1-2.
Steven Smith(c), David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird, Chadd Sayers
There will be a few injury concerns for England going into the Ashes. Fast bowlers James Anderson and Stuart Broad have had quite a few injury issues in recent times and it will be a big blow to the team's chances if the frontline pace duo are deemed unfit on the eve of the series. Top-order batsman Ian Bell who has played 118 tests for England is pressing for a return to the test squad for the Ashes.
Alastair Cook is the most experienced player for England in the longest format of the game and is also the highest run-getter in tests with 30 hundreds and 53 fifties under his belt. The former skipper has been performing well in the List-A and First Class matches and the team will have a lot of hopes pinned on him for this series. Joe Root is another man in fine form. The current test captain had a good Champions Trophy and he scored the most runs for England in the team's last test series in India.
England will be keeping their fingers crossed for James Anderson and Stuart Broad, both of whom will be crucial for the team with the ball. While Anderson is leading the English bowling charts with 467 test wickets in the bag, Broad is not too far behind him on the third spot with 368 wickets. Chris Woakes has also been among the wickets and he will be another paceman to watch out for. Adil Rashid was the pick of the bowlers in the test series against India and he will be a major weapon in England's spin attack.
England, in their last 10 test series, have two defeats, four wins and as many draws. Though they are a tough side to take down at home, they need to improve their test record away from home having won just once in their previous seven test series outside of England. Their most recently played series came against India last year in November-December where they were hammered 0-4 by the hosts.
Alastair Cook, Mark Stoneman, Joe Root(c), Dawid Malan, Gary Ballance, James Vince, Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Mason Crane, Ben Foakes, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Jake Ball, Craig Overton, Tom Curran
Australia take the lead as far as overall head-to-head count is concerned. Out of the 341 matches, 140 have been won by Australia and 108 by England. The rest have all ended in stalemate. The tourists however will take a lot of confidence as they have been the better side in recent times. Since 2005, the two teams have been involved in seven Ashes series of which five have been won by England. The last Ashes series was held in England in 2015 where the hosts regained the urn from Australia by beating them 3-2.
Australia will be playing at home and they've generally had an upper hand in their own conditions. Since 1986-87, the Aussies have lost just one Ashes series to England at home and this is probably one of the main reasons why they are starting as favorites to win the Ashes 2017-18 at 1.65 with Betfair and 1.57 with Bet365. Interestingly, England have had the better of Australia over the past few years. Since 2009, there have been five Ashes series between these two nations with England having won four of those. This makes the visitors a good value at 3.05 with Betfair and 3.60 with Bet365. A drawn Ashes series is way up at 6 and 7 respectively.
The two teams have so far played 69 Ashes series and both have won 32 each with the remaining 5 having resulted in a draw. Australia however have a slight edge as they have won 130 Ashes tests as compared to England's 106 wins out of the 325 played between them. The last time England went Down Under in 2013, they were blown away 0-5 by the hosts who reclaimed the urn after having lost three Ashes series in a row prior to that. However, the pay dispute between the Australian players and their board could bring negative consequences for the team this time around.
England on the other hand have issues of their own - the major one being the availability of their spearheads Anderson and Broad, the absence of whom will leave the Aussie batters licking their lips. It does seem unlikely at the moment, but if there is a timely settlement in the pay dispute, it would be wise to back Australia here. Otherwise, it could be anybody's series. There hasn't been a drawn Ashes series since 1974 and since test matches have started yielding more results nowadays, backing the series for a draw will be quite a risk.