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Australia on the drift for Ashes win as Bell chimes

WITH less than a week until the start of the Ashes, punters are showing more and more faith in England to retain the urn and Stan James on Thuirsday pushed out Australia to a stand-out evens to win the series.

Despite losing the last series in England in the summer of 2009, the Aussies had always been odds-on across the board to avenge that reverse.

However, England’s impressive display in their final warm-up against Australia A was just the encouragement punters needed to pile on Andrew Strauss’s men, and England are now shorter at 15-8 than they were to win last year’s showdown on home soil.

Several firms have also pushed out Australia for the first Test, which starts on Wednesday night, with Blue Square and 888sport now biggest at 6-5.

“It looks like we’ll be cheering on Ponting’s boys in Brisbane because support for the Aussies seems to have dried up with both the draw and England being well punted,” said Steve Freeth of Bet365, who go 11-10 from evens about a home win in Brisbane.

And Paddy Power reported that they had laid three times as many bets on England than on Australia.

A repeat of the 2009 winning scoreline of 2-1 has proved the most popular bet, attracting nearly 20 per cent of correct-score wagers.

It is not only England’s solid warm-up that is turning punters away from the Aussies.

The hosts’ announcement of a 17-man squad earlier in the week has reinforced the belief that the Australians do not know their best side, and Paddy Power go 13-2 that they stick with the same 11 players for all five Tests.

Ian Bell was the star man for England on the second day of four against Australia A hitting an unbeaten century, though Kevin Pietersen failed to shine and was dismissed for just five.

On day three, Bell was finally dismissed for 192 as the Three Lions made 523, a lead of293 on first innings.

Australia A were 128-3 at stumps second time around with potential Test debutants Usman Khawaja and Callum Ferguson back in the pavilion cheaply.

Back-up opener Phil Hughes had hit an unbeaten58 though.

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