Most cricket fans will have made a note for December 8th in their diary or phone, as that Wednesday signifies the start of the 2021-22 Ashes series.
Australia currently hold the urn and also have home advantage, which is why they are 3/10 to win the series outright, as England head Down Under to try and win on Aussie soil for the first time since 2010-11.
It’s fair to say these are two teams that are not at their strongest and that should mean an entertaining series, but conditions will certainly favour the hosts.
Stats Against Untested Tourists
When you consider that the tourists have only won one of their last eight series in Australia, it shows the size of the task facing Joe Root and Co this winter.
England have won just four of their 12 Tests in 2021, with six of those on home soil, and that is hardly ideal preparation for an away Ashes series – that run has seen them slip to fourth in the Test rankings, one place behind the Baggy Greens.
It’s also worth noting that the hosts have lost just one of their last five Test series, although that did come against India in Australia earlier this year.
First Test Crucial to Series
The first Test in Brisbane will offer key signs as to how the series will progress, especially when you consider Australia’s record at the Gabba.
The hosts have only lost one of 32 Tests in Queensland (that was against India in January) and you have to go back to 1986 for the last time England won at the Gabba.
A positive result in Brisbane, which would be not to lose, would be a huge lift for an inexperienced touring party, with only eight of the 18-man party having previously played a Test match in Australia.
It was Dawid Malan who top-scored for the tourists in the 2017-18 series, with 383 runs, and the Yorkshire batter is 7/1 to repeat that feat in the upcoming series.
Aussie Pace to Trouble England Batters
The two teams are pretty evenly matched in their batting line-ups, with England currently having the top-ranked Test batsman in Root.
Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne are third and fourth respectively, while David Warner, Ben Stokes and Rory Burns are all in the top-25 in the world.
There is no doubt that both Root and Stokes, who is 4/1 to be England’s top runscorer, will be crucial to England’s hopes, but it’s the hosts’ pace attack that looks set to make the difference.
The likes of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins will offer real speed on hard surfaces, with a kookaburra ball which they are well used to performing with.
Cummins could be captain for the Aussies, following Tim Paine’s recent decision to step down, and the paceman can be backed at 7/4 to be the hosts’ top bowler.
In stark contrast, England’s lack of bowling pace is a concern, especially with the absence of Jofra Archer due to injury.
Mark Wood is the only genuine paceman in the squad and the England selectors might go with Ollie Robinson, who offers the extra height (at 6ft 5in) to bang the ball in short on fast pitches.
*All odds correct at time of writing