JUST eight days after their humiliation in Cardiff, Australia are back in the driver’s seat in the 2015 Ashes series following an emphatic win in the second Test at Lord’s.
Most observers expected a firm reply from the visitors, but few could have foreseen such a complete transformation in the space of a few hot dinners.
Having fallen well short in all disciplines at Sophia Gardens, the Aussies were all but perfect from go to woe as they dealt England a resounding 405-run defeat inside four days at the home of cricket.
Online bookmakers have responded immediately to that seismic shift in momentum.
Australia had drifted out to $2.88 in the series betting following the first Test, but Sportsbet.com now has them as $1.53 favourites to win the Ashes outright.
And having dropped as short as $2 after their impressive 169-run victory in Wales, England are back out to $5 in the series odds at William Hill.
The Baggy Greens could hardly have started better at Lord’s as Steven Smith (215) and Chris Rogers (173) exploited a tame pitch – and an even tamer English attack – en route to a first innings total of eight for 566 declared.
Smith, who also struck a quick-fire 58 in the second dig, has stormed in from $3.50 to just $1.53 at Sportsbet.com to top Australia’s runscoring charts for the series.
There is also a lot of love for Rogers ($2.75 at Sportsbet), who has leapfrogged the likes of David Warner ($15) and Michael Clarke ($51) despite real concerns over his health.
The stalwart opener, who missed the recent series in the West Indies with concussion, retired ill on 49 in Australia’s second innings after suffering a sudden dizzy spell.
Rogers also took a knock to the helmet in the first innings at Lord’s, but his captain has said there is no suggestion of serious injury and that the 37-year-old should be cleared to play in the third Test at Edgbaston.
“I don’t know enough about it at this stage,” Clarke told the press after the match.
“It sounds to me that today’s incident is no relation to him getting hit in the West Indies or even the other day.
“We’ll wait and see the result and let the experts have a look at him and make their decision. But I’m confident Chris will be right for the next Test match.”
As good as Rogers and Smith were in London, it was Australia’s bowling attack which really made the difference on a track that seemed to offer no pace or bounce when England had the Duke in hand.
All the Aussie quicks performed, with Mitchell Johnson (3/53 and 3/27) leading the charge with a resurgent display after a rather disappointing outing in the first Test.
The left-arm spearhead now has eight scalps and is paying $3.50 at Sportsbet to take the most wickets for Australia in Ashes 2015, just behind Mitchell Starc ($3.25, nine wickets) and the ultra-consistent Josh Hazlewood ($3.40, 10 wickets).
The quicks have been ably supported in both Tests by spinner Nathan Lyon, who has nine wickets at 24.88 and is offering $6 Sportsbet odds to top the Aussie bowling charts at the end of the series.
Also on nine victims for the series is Stuart Broad, the only England bowler who looked like causing any kind of trouble for the rampaging Aussies at St John’s Wood.
He is the home side’s untouchable favourite for leading wicket taker right now, paying just $1.66 at Sportsbet.
Broad has comfortably outshone fellow England seamer James Anderson ($9), who went wicketless in the second Test and has now failed to make a breakthrough with the ball in three of four Ashes innings.
The punters and the bookies even prefer part-time spinner Moeen Ali ($4), who has managed to snare eight victims so far – five more than Anderson.
But while the English bowlers copped a lot of stick, the batsmen didn’t give them an awful lot to work with.
Having scraped to 312 in the first innings, the Three Lions were dismissed for just 103 in the second as Australia’s superior seamers ran riot.
Even the talismanic Joe Root couldn’t drag the hosts out of the mire. He managed just 18 runs for the match, but remains the $1.62 Sportsbet.com favourite to crown England’s batting stats for the series.
Alastair Cook ($5.50) and allrounder Ben Stokes ($9.50) are the next best bets for England top runscorer, having made 96 and 87 respectively in the first dig at Lord’s.
But there are big concerns over the form of number three Gary Ballance and number four Ian Bell heading into the Birmingham Test match, which is scheduled to start on Wednesday, July 29.
The leading cricket betting sites expect Australia to take the series lead at Edgbaston, with Crownbet.com paying $1.93 best odds for the tourists to make it two victories in a row.
Sportsbet has England at $4.10 to turn the tide with a win in the West Midlands, while WilliamHill.com is offering $3.75 for the draw.
Best 2015 Ashes futures bets
We urged our readers to get on the Aussies when they blew out to nearly $3 after the Cardiff upset, and those who heeded our advice will be smiling now. They’re paying less than half that amount at some bookmakers sites at the moment, so Sportsbet’s $1.53 price better value than most.
Australia 3-1 correct score – $4.33 at www.Bet365.com
Again, you would have picked up a really good price last week if you took Australia to win the series by three matches to one. A few Ashes betting sites are now paying $3.75 or less for this market, but Bet365 is still offering reasonable bang for your buck.
Triple century to be scored in the series – $41 at Sportsbet
This is one of the juicier Ashes specials out there. We’ve already seen Steve Smith score a double ton, while Chris Rogers and Joe Root have also notched big hundreds. The pitches at Birmingham, Nottingham and The Oval aren’t expected to offer much more for the bowlers, so why not chuck a tenner on this Hail Mary bet?
Hat-trick to be taken in Ashes 2015 – $8.50 at www.Sportsbet.com
From Fred Spofforth at the MCG in 1879 to Peter Siddle at Brisbane in 2010, the Ashes has produced more hat-tricks (eight) than any other Test cricket rivalry. All it takes is three peaches in a row, and we know Johnson, Starc, et al are more than capable of that. It’s also worth noting that Stuart Broad already has two Test hat-tricks on English soil: against India in 2010, and against Sri Lanka in 2014.
Upcoming Ashes 2015 fixtures
Third Test: July 29-August 2 at Edgbaston, Birmingham
England – $4.10 at Sportsbet
Draw – $3.75 at Bet365.com
Australia – $1.93 at www.CrownBet.com
Fourth Test: August 6-10 at Trent Bridge, Nottingham
Fifth Test: August 20-24 at The Oval, London
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