England keeper Bairstow could rise to the big occasion
Aussie opener Warner set for a productive series
Joe Root dominates the top England series runscorer market but his price looks short enough given the huge pressure of a first away Ashes series as captain.
Alastair Cook, Mark Stoneman and James Vince face a stiff examination from Australia’s new-ball bowlers so England need their middle-order men – Root, Dawid Malan, Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali – to score heavily once the ball loses its hardness.
Wicketkeeper Bairstow may be the best-value alternative to Root, especially as Ben Stokes’s absence means he will move up to number six in the batting order.
Bairstow seems to relish extra responsibility as he showed in September’s one-day series against the West Indies, scoring two unbeaten centuries in five innings after being pressed into service as an opener.
After a stellar 2016, when he scored 1,470 runs at an average of almost 60, he was the second-highest runscorer on either side in England’s summer series against South Africa and can rise to the occasion down under.
Australia’s Usman Khawaja, like Bairstow, had a patchy start to his Test career but his recent runscoring feats at home suggest he could pose a major danger to England’s chances of retaining the Ashes urn.
The left-hander is in terrific form, with scores of 85, 81, 138, 41, 40, 122, 27, 28 not out, 78 not out and 52 in his last ten innings for Queensland.
Steve Smith and David Warner are the obvious favourites to top the Aussie runscoring charts but the 11-2 about Khawaja eclipsing the big two isn’t a bad price.
Although a more solid punting strategy may be to go over his series runs line of 359.5. His tallies in recent home Test series have been 267 in three matches against Pakistan, 314 in three against South Africa, 200 in two against the West Indies and 304 in two against New Zealand.
A couple of Warner-based bets also appeal and the 10-11 that he outscores fellow openers Cook, Stoneman and Cameron Bancroft looks a tasty price.
He was the leading runscorer in the 2013-14 series and struck 418 runs (to Cook’s 330) in the 2015 series in England.
It is hard to see Stoneman or the uncapped Bancroft overshadowing Warner, who has scored 11 centuries in 22 home Test matches since 2013.
He has scored his Test runs in Australia at a rate of 84 per 100 balls and looks a rock-solid 2-1 favourite with bet365 to score the fastest century of the series.
The hard new ball disappears at speed when Warner is on his game and in his last home Test he reached 100 before lunch on the first day, off just 78 balls against Pakistan in Sydney.
In Perth in 2012 it took him only 69 deliveries while he also has 82- and 93-ball tons on his Test resume.
Warner’s most recent Test innings in Australia was a 23-ball fifty in January but the 14-1 about Moeen Ali scoring the quickest half-century of the series is worth a small bet.
Moeen, due to come in at number seven, is a sublime timer of the ball who should enjoy the pacy pitches in Australia.
He struck 75 not out off 66 balls against South Africa at Old Trafford in August while his last two ODI innings were 102 off 57 and 48 not out off 25 against the West Indies while his efforts in the 2015 Ashes included 38 off 24 at Trent Bridge.
J Bairstow top England series runscorer
1pt 13-2 Hills
U Khawaja to score over 359.9 series runs
4pts 8-11 bet365
D Warner top-scoring opener
4pts 10-11 Coral, Ladbrokes
D Warner to score fastest century
2pts 2-1 bet365
M Ali to score fastest fifty
1pt 14-1 bet365
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