Can England break Australia’s 29-year stranglehold on the annual Brisbane Test match?
The punters are saying “no bloody way”, according to online bookmaker Sportsbet.com.au.
The hosts have drawn more than four times as much money as the tourists, with one confident gambler dropping $6000 on the Aussies at -129.87 odds.
“No one wants to put their hard earned on England at the GABBA,” said Sportsbet’s Christian Jantzen.
“Punters are even more interested in the draw rather than the tourists, which isn’t surprising given the Aussies haven’t lost a Test in Brisbane since 1988.”
The support for Australia might surprise those who have lashed out at the surprise selections for the first Test.
Cameron Bancroft’s fine start to the Sheffield Shield season has earned him a well-deserved cap, but the recalls of Shaun Marsh and Tim Paine have left many observers reeling in disbelief.
The #Ashes are just days away! Which squad is stronger?
LIKE: England pic.twitter.com/7Aoa4NdKmx
— ICC (@ICC) November 19, 2017
The injury-prone Marsh has now been called up to the Test team on eight separate occasions, while Paine – currently the second-choice wicketkeeper behind Matthew Wade at Tasmania – has not donned the Baggy Green since 2010.
Australia coach Darren Lehmann has defended both inclusions, adding that the national selectors “were very clear” about the direction they wanted to take the team.
“We watched [Paine] keep a bit with the T20s and the tour game. He’s a high-quality keeper,” Lehmann told reporters this week.
“It was really all the keepers going at it… whoever performed the best with the gloves and then obviously get some runs.
“I was very impressed with him down in the Adelaide game, I went down for that. He’s been very good for us in the T20s and we decided to go down that path.”
Marsh was left off the tour to Bangladesh earlier this year, but Lehmann claimed the West Australian lefty was primed for a big Ashes series.
“We’re really confident with where he is at as a player,” the former Test and ODI star said.
“He’s in good form so he’ll do well. He’s played some important knocks for us. He’s really confident in himself.”
England’s squad has also attracted plenty of attention, not least with superstar allrounder Ben Stokes missing the start of the series as he deals with the fallout of a much-publicised nightclub brawl in Bristol.
— Joe Root (@root66) November 19, 2017
One of several Ashes virgins in the touring party is Dawid Malan, who is expecting a hostile reception from Australia’s fearsome pace attack.
The Middlesex batsman told the press that England’s top priority was to avoid the humiliations that have come with past visits to the Gabba.
“I think Mitchell Johnson took the boys by surprise a bit,” Malan said of the 2013/14 Ashes tour, which ended in a 5-0 whitewash to Australia.
“I spoke to Rooty [Joe Root] about his first Test here and he said the occasion really got to him.
“He said the first innings he had was all a bit of a blur and his adrenaline got going with the crowd and he ended up playing a shot he wouldn’t have played in a normal situation, so it is about managing your own emotions when you’re out there which is key.
“Coming into this series we are prepared for that, whether we play it well or not, or handle it well or not is a different story and that remains to be seen, but we’ve prepared well for it and it is what happens in the middle that counts.”
Stuart Broad was under a brief injury cloud after copping a stray golf ball to the back on his day off, but both he and fellow Nottinghamshire seamer Jake Ball are expected to be fit and firing for Thursday’s series opener.
Breaking news on David Warner:
Australia vice-captain David Warner is in doubt for the first Test after hurting his neck in a fielding drill.
The superstar opener attempted to bat in the nets afterwards, but faced only a couple of throwdowns before returning to the dressing room for further treatment.
If Warner is unable to play, a replacement may be called up at number six to allow either Marsh or Usman Khawaja to open the batting.
The other option would be to recall Matt Renshaw, who was dumped from the original squad in favour of Bancroft.
Usman Khawaja betting specials
- Over 36.5 runs (first innings) – -105.26 at William Hill
- Top Australia batsman (first innings) – +450
- To score a century (first innings) – +500 at Neds
- Top runscorer/Australia win – +700 at Ladbrokes
- Man of the match – +1400 at Ladbrokes
Warner and Steve Smith are the headline acts in the Australian batting order, but is Khawaja the best bet at Brisbane?
The smooth mollydooker loves playing at the Gabba, where he has registered scores of 40, 122, 78 not out and 52 for Queensland in the Sheffield Shield this season.
With Warner in some doubt, there could be serious value in getting on Ussie before the bookies cotton on and the odds come in.
Australia vs. England match prediction
The Aussies are nigh-on impossible to beat at the Gabba.
Even when the chips are down and it looks like the streak might be over, they always find a way to dig themselves out of trouble and steal a result.
However, the Baggy Green’s greatest obstacle on this occasion will not be England, but the elements.
Heavy rain is forecast for Brisbane on Thursday, which could seriously hinder either side’s chances of winning.
Keep an eye on the radar, because it might be worth putting a few schmeckles down on the draw.
Match drawn – +360 at William Hill