ONLY one Australian cricket team has ever made the long trek to England and won every game on tour.
Bradman’s invincibles cruised there by boat in 1948 and slaughtered every team they came across in the great batsman’s last ever Test Series.
Fast forward 67 years and the Australians find themselves rated a $101 chance to emulate that wondrous side and win each of the scheduled five Tests, five one dayers and single Twenty/20 match against Ireland.
Obviously, the notorious English weather will play a part, but we hear it reached a balmy 30 degrees in some parts of the United Kingdom just yesterday, so hopefully the weather gods will be playing ball when the first pill is bowled in the first Test on Wednesday, July 8.
Sportsbet.com.au’s Christian Jantzen reports the Aussies, fresh off crushing the West Indies on their tour of the Caribbean, are, as expected, heavily backed.
“Ninety per cent of the money has gone on Australia to win the Test series, but the way the Poms are going, Ireland will probably be a bigger obstacle to get past if we’re going to win every single match on tour,” Jantzen said.
“For those who aren’t as adventurous, how about $34 for Australia to be undefeated in the five Tests, five one dayers and the solitary T20 against Ireland?
“The Ashes shouldn’t pose any problem according to punters, with the Aussies $1.36 to win the series, and $10 to win it 5-0.”
While the $101 appears a long shot, it’s hard not to think the Aussies are a sneaky chance to do it
The Poms have one three one dayers on the trot against New Zealand, after drawing a Test series, 1-1 and losing a Test to the West Indies on their home turf, so it’s fair to say they had struggled mightily before a minor resurgence.
And there’s plenty of niggle between the two teams, as there always is when the old enemies meet.
Steve Smith, fresh off being named the world’s best Test batsman on the back of a sparkling 199 in the West Indies, has drawn the attention of serial antagonist Stuart Broad.
Broad reckons Smith is no good at number three against the swinging Dukes ball in England.
“It’s an advantage for us with him coming in at number three with the Dukes ball in England,” Broad said.
“If he comes in at five like Joe Root does for us, there’s not many weaknesses there.
“But, with the ball moving around in England, we know how hard it is to bat in that top three.
“I’m certainly not doubting the quality of him as a player … but you have to have a very tight technique to bat in the top three against the Dukes ball in England.”
“They’re allowed to have their comments,” coach Darren Lehmann said.
“I’m not too worried about that
“I think Steve Smith’s a pretty good player.
“I think he got 199 at number three the other week, so I think he’ll be fine.”
Former English spinner Graeme Swann – fresh off being hammered into an early retirement by Smith during the lat Ashes series – has also been mouthing off about both Smith and fellow protagonist Nathan Lyon, but the Aussies haven’t really brought into it, carrying themselves with a quiet exuberance that they are the team to beat.
“From my point of view I can’t wait to play another Ashes in their conditions,” Smith said.
“After beating them so convincingly in Australia it’s going to be nice to go into their backyard and if we continue to play the same way we’ve played over the last 12-18 months, I don’t think they’ll come close to us to be honest.”
We don’t think they will either.
While a bit of banter has gone back and forth, English swing expert James Anderson wants the series to be played in the right spirit.
You know, the guy who Aussie captain Michael Clarke told to “get ready for a broken f****** arm” during the last series when he was facing up against a fire breathing Mitchell Johnson?
“I hope it’s played in the same nature as the New Zealand series, that was a really positive series and the nature of both sides’ cricket was helped by the spirit the game was played in,” Anderson said.
“(But) there’s a different relationship between the two teams, the Ashes is a huge series for both sets of players.
”If there is needle, it’s something I thought I thrived on or needed in the past but having played in the last few months, I think it’s important we get the balance right of playing in the right spirit, but also having that competitive edge to win a game of cricket for your country.”
We’ll let the captain, Clarke, have the final word here:
“It is a really exciting part of what comes with Ashes cricket; the build up, the media, the public anticipation. I think that’s great for any series,” Clarke said of all the banter.
“Being an Australian player or an English player, Ashes at home or away, that’s a big part of the package.
“It’s great for the game but as a player you don’t need to build up the Ashes.
“The public and the media are going to build it up for you, so for us it’s about ensuring you are focused on what’s important right now — and that’s our preparation.”
2016 Ashes markets
* Odds provided by WilliamHill.com.au
$34 Australia to go through entire tour undefeated
$101 Australia to win every Test, one day international and T20 match on tour
* Odds provided by Sportsbet.com.au
Night Test cricket on the way
No, this isn’t the Ashes, but some massive news broke today, with Test cricket set to follow in the foot steps of the short form of the game with a day night fixture scheduled for Adelaide in November.
Australia will play New Zealand in a twilight match, with the first ball to be bowled at 2pm.
With waning crowd numbers taking in the long form of the game, cricket officials have tried desperately to stem the tide and bring them back.
A newly developed pink ball will be used, but it has been met with some skepticism by the players, most of the fast bowling lot concerned that it doesn’t swing enough and goes soft very quickly.
But, regardless of the whinging, Test cricket is about to move into a new era, with the dawn of the day nighted over five days.
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