Third Test – starts 11:00am local time on Wednesday, July 29, 2015 at Edgbaston, Birmingham
England – $4.50 at Sportsbet.com
Draw – $3.60 at www.Bet365.com
Australia – $1.85 at William Hill
The scores may be tied, but the momentum is all with the Australians ahead of the third Investec Ashes Test at Birmingham.
The visitors levelled the series in emphatic fashion in the second Test at Lord’s, rolling over England for just 103 in the second innings to seal a 405-run victory inside four days.
That huge turnaround from the defeat at Cardiff earlier this month has seen Michael Clarke’s men shorten to $1.50 favourites at CrownBet.com to win the series outright.
They are also odds-on to keep the good times rolling in the West Midlands, with online bookmaker WilliamHill.com offering $1.85 on the Aussies to make it 2-1 at Edgbaston.
The big question is who will be behind the stumps when Australia suit up for Ashes Test number three, which kicks off this Wednesday, July 29.
Peter Nevill impressed on his maiden outing at Lord’s, making a dashing 45 with the bat and taking seven catches – a record for a wicketkeeper on debut in a Test match.
The 29-year-old kept the gloves for the recent tour match against Derbyshire, but Brad Haddin – who withdrew from the second Test for personal reasons – has made himself available for selection once more.
Haddin was picked as a standalone batsman for the three-day game at the County Ground and fielded in the outer, so it would appear Nevill has the upper hand.
Meanwhile, Mitchell Marsh backed up from his impressive performance at St John’s Wood with a half century and four wickets, further emphasising his claim to the allrounder slot while putting another nail in Shane Watson’s coffin.
The West Australian is enjoying a fabulous tour, and Sportsbet has him at $7 to take the most wickets and $9 to top score for Australia in the first innings at Birmingham.
There could also be a recall on the cards for Mitch’s older brother, Shaun Marsh, should Chris Rogers fail to pass fit after his worrying dizzy spell in the second innings at Lord’s.
The elder Marsh hit a very solid 101 – his third century in as many tour games – opening alongside David Warner in Derby, and he is first in line to step up in the event that Rogers sits out.
In his tour column for the Cricket Australia website, head coach Darren Lehmann said: “We are yet to finalise our XI for Edgbaston so all I can say is that we, as a selection panel, will make the decision that we believe is in the best interests of the team and that gives us the right balance for the conditions that we’ll face in the Test.
“If we have to make a tough call then that’s what we’ll do, but that won’t happen until we see how everyone shapes up over the next couple of days and we get a look at the conditions which will allow us to make a solid call on every position from one to 11.”
Over in the England camp, the selectors have pulled the trigger on a top order which has failed to fire so far in this series.
The first casualty is Gary Ballance, whose timid front-foot technique has been sorely exposed by Australia’s fast bowlers.
That means a recall for the in-form Jonny Bairstow, who hasn’t played a Test for England since the unmitigated disaster that was the 2013-14 Ashes tour.
Fresh off innings of 139 and 74 not out for Yorkshire in the County Championship, the keeper-batsman (who will double as Jos Buttler’s understudy) will likely slot into the middle order at number five.
That begs the question of who will shuffle up to fill the presently vacant role at first drop.
Joe Root is England’s best bat, but he has flourished at number five after struggling somewhat as an opener during the early part of his Test career.
The more likely scenario is that Ian Bell – arguably on his last chance after a very patchy run of form – will move up to three while Root takes the number four spot.
There is also some pressure on young paceman Mark Wood, who managed just one wicket at a cost of 131 runs in the second Test and was noticeably down on speed.
Steve Finn is waiting in the wings, but it is expected that Wood will be given at least one more chance to stake his claim as England’s third seamer.
2015 Ashes Test squads
England: Alastair Cook (C), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Ian Bell, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler, Steven Finn, Adam Lyth, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Mark Wood
Australia: Michael Clarke (C), Fawad Ahmed, Pat Cummins, Brad Haddin, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Peter Nevill, Chris Rogers, Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle, Steven Smith, Adam Voges, David Warner, Shane Watson
Third Test match predictions
Result – Australia ($1.85 at www.WilliamHill.com)
Highest opening partnership – England ($2.40 at William Hill)
To score a fifty – Joe Root ($2.10 at Sportsbet.com)
The Aussies are feeling good after their big bounce-back win in London. The quicks have their tails up, the inclusions of Mitch Marsh and Nevill have worked so far, and Steve Smith is proving just why so many consider him the best young player in Test cricket. Get on Australia to make it 2-1 at Brum.
In other 2015 Ashes betting markets, have a look at England to put together the best opening stand of the first innings. Cook and Lyth haven’t quite clicked yet, but they are a chance here with Rogers a doubt and his likely replacement, Shaun Marsh, having struggled to adapt to the five-day game in the past.
There is plenty of value in the match batting markets for the home side, too. Anything over $2 for Root to make a first-innings fifty is pretty good money, especially with the young Yorkshireman set to move up the order. If you really fancy him, online betting site www.Sportsbet.com is paying $6 for Root to score a century in the first dig.
Best Ashes bets for top batsman
Joe Root ($3.75 at Luxbet.com)
He is the home side’s best player, as he proved with a match-turning hundred in the first Ashes Test in Wales. He missed out at Lord’s as the Aussie quicks ran riot, but Root rarely flounders two Tests in a row these days.
Steven Smith ($3.75 at www.CrownBet.com)
Having twice succumbed in the 190s during his nascent Test career, Smith finally notched his maiden double ton with a brilliant 215 in the first innings at Lord’s. If there were any doubts about his ability to perform in the number three slot, surely they are dead and buried now.
Value odds for most match wickets
Stuart Broad ($8 at William Hill)
Having starred in Cardiff, Broad was the only English bowler to extract anything of worth from a flat deck at Lord’s. He has nine wickets for the series and will need to add to that tally in Birmingham if the hosts are to derail the Aussies.
Josh Hazlewood ($7 at www.WilliamHill.com)
While Johnson, Starc and even Mitch Marsh have grabbed the headlines, Hazlewood has quietly worked his way to the top of the Ashes 2015 bowling charts with 10 wickets at a strike rate of 39.6. Whatever the conditions at Edgbaston, you can bank on the tall seamer from Tamworth to contribute.
Ashes 2015 match results and fixtures
First Test – July 8-11 at Sophia Gardens, Cardiff
England won by 169 runs
Second Test – July 16-19 at Lord’s, London
Australia won by 405 runs
Third Test – July 29 to August 2 at Edgbaston, Birmingham
Fourth Test – August 6-10 at Trent Bridge, Nottingham
Fifth Test – August 20-24 at The Oval, London
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