WITH the lead up to the Ashes series dominated by off-field talk, it might be worth checking out some of the more specific bets on offer if you’re looking to invest in the oldest of cricketing rivalries.
With racism scandals dominating the cricketing headlines in England, and Australia losing their skipper and wicketkeeper on the eve of the five-match series, the usual tit-for-tat verbal joust that dominates the build-up has been notably absent.
There are only two things you need to know about the Ashes – Steve Smith and Joe Root will score runs!
With that in mind it is worth checking out the odds with the Bet365 UK current offer for the top run scorer in the series with Smith favorite at 11/5 (+220) and Root second favorite at 13/5 (+260).
Smith has a superb record against the old enemy, but there are suggestions in some quarters that the 32-year-old is not the force of old. Once you’ve dismissed that talk then it’s difficult to see beyond him for top run scorer.
The statistics tell you all you need to know: in home Tests he averages 67.72, and his average against England at home and abroad is 65.11. In the 2019 series, he was arguably the reason Australia retained the Ashes, the 2-2 scoreline having much to do with the batting form of the former skipper.
His performances were up there with the very best in cricketing history. A total of 774 runs in seven innings – he missed a Test after getting struck on the head by Jofra Archer – at an average of 110. One double hundred, two more 100s and three 50s gave a return that was the best series run total since Brian Lara against England in 1993/94, and the West Indian great hit 375 in one innings!
Add to that it was done in just four games and he is one of only three players since the year 2000 who’s scored over 700 runs in four Tests; and just for good measure, Smith has achieved the feat twice.
The numbers in 2019 were up there with the greatest in history, and Smith was only just returning from a 12-month ban for his part in Sandpapergate, the scandal of Aussie players tampering with the ball during their tour of South Africa in 2018.
Two years ago in England he faced a constant barrage on the pitch from Archer’s short-pitched approach, and in the stands he was subjected to boos, jeers and worse every time he came out to bat.
While David Warner – also banned for his part in Sandpapergate – struggled under the intense pressure, Smith thrived. There are few sportsmen in the world better at coping with pressure than Smith, and there is no team he prefers playing against than England.
It’s true that since Ashes in England, his figures have fallen: he averaged 36.28 in the summer of 2019/20 and 44.71 last season. While those figures would make mere mortals permanent Test fixtures, Smith sets himself higher standards.
He’ll expect to finish top scorer and there appears to be only one player who could potentially challenge him, England skipper Joe Root.
Root has single-handedly been keeping England afloat during a difficult last 18 months, topping the ICC Test rankings and averaging above 60 in 2021.
When Root is out, the Aussies believe they have England on the rack; the main problem for the tourists is that many in their own dressing room are likely to agree with that synopsis. But Root knows he must perform for England to have any chance, so he’s worth a bet at 13/5 (+260).
The only other players of interest in the runs corer list appear to be David Warner at 4/1 (+400), with the left-hander having much to prove after his dismal run in 2019, and Ben Stokes at 8/1 (+800), because he’s Ben Stokes and anything can happen when he’s at the crease.