Australia brutally punished the inexperience in the England ranks to take a 1-0 lead in the Ashes series with a 10-wicket win at The Gabba this week. The tourists badly missed Ben Stokes as Mitchell Starc and co tore through England’s elongated lower order, while Steve Smith was devastating with the bat. By the end of day three the test was hanging in the balance, but England suffered a meltdown on the final two days and the hosts were rampant. England have now drifted out to 8/1 on the cricket betting odds boards with 10Bet and Sky Bet to win the five-test series, while Australia have gone into 1/5 at William Hill, Ladbrokes and Coral to regain the Ashes.
Stokes was left at home as he is currently under investigation on suspicion of assault, and England were further rocked by an incident involving Johnny Bairstow and a head-butt in a Perth bar. That has been shrugged off, but England’s tour Down Under threatens to descend into disarray if Joe Root cannot inspire his men to a reversal of form. Stokes absence is keenly felt in the bowling department, as the ever-reliable Stuart Broad and James Anderson received little in the way of support from Jake Ball, Chris Woakes and Moeen Ali, while the batting line-up also looks lightweight without the world’s best all-rounder.
But the biggest disappointment from the first test was Alastair Cook, as the former England captain was bowled out for just two runs in the first innings. He had a chance of redemption in the second but flopped once again and went for just seven runs. England’s other big hitters, Root and Bairstow, also fluffed their lines but earned a degree of salvation with vastly improved second innings tallies. But huge question marks will now linger over the ability of Cook to influence the outcome of this series. He has the potential to be a real thorn in Australia’s side, but really needs to overcome the psychological impact of his miserable first test.
Australia started the test slowly and only took a slender lead into the second innings thanks to the heroics of captain Smith, currently ranked the world’s best batsman. He lived up to the title with a sensational century and went on to finish the day 141 not out, keeping his grim-faced composure while those around him fell. On the final day he was not even needed as openers David Warner and Cameron Bancroft wrapped up a comfortable 10-wicket victory without ever looking troubled.
Australia now have a huge advantage going into the second test and they will be by far the more confident team. It starts in Adelaide on Saturday, giving Root and co a few days to work out what went wrong and plot a route to redemption. England are outsiders, 11/4 with William Hill, Ladbrokes and various others, and plenty of action is going on them as it has tempted patriotic punters. But the hosts look a great bet at 4/6 with Betfair and 8/13 with Bet Victor and various others.
England showed some flashes of inspiration in the first test, notably James Vince’s first innings performance, and traveling fans will hope they ease into the series going forwards. But Australia displayed similar levels of aggression that spurred them on to a 5-0 whitewash the last time the Ashes were held Down Under, and England simply could not live with them in the first test. Meanwhile, the hosts were supremely composed with the bat, and Smith is hard to live with in this sort of form. It is set up to be an intriguing second test, but Australia look the more sensible option right now.