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Nov 24, 2017
Nov 24, 2017

Ashes odds analysis: Considerations for the 2017/18 series

Ashes betting: What can we learn from the past?

Are the different venues are important?

Analysing both Australia and England's squad strength

Ashes odds analysis: Considerations for the 2017/18 series

Credit: Getty Images

With the start of the 2017 Ashes upon us, preparations for both Australia and England are well underway. This preview looks at the likely conditions in Australia, as well as analysis going into the first Test and what this means in terms of the Ashes odds. Read on for an in-depth Ashes betting preview.

Ashes betting: What can we learn from the past?

From an Australian and English player perspective, playing in The Ashes is the pinnacle of any player’s career - forget T20s, when growing up, this is what every player from these two countries dream of. 

In the Ashes series this decade, England have the edge, winning five and losing four including five of the previous seven. Home teams have a clear edge, ending up victorious in seven of the nine series since 2000.

Considering this, it is not entirely surprising that Australia are solid favourites in the Ashes odds to regain the urn. Below is are the factors you should consider to inform your cricket betting ahead of the  2017/18 Ashes series.

Batting average down under

In Australia, batting conditions historically have been excellent, with a batting average of 37.60 (far greater than the worldwide mean of 31.98) recorded in Tests since the start of 2014. Particularly in first innings of matches there is a huge advantage. Teams batting first recorded an average of 49.39 at a strike rate of 61.83.

These numbers aret vastly in excess of the worldwide mean, it illustrates the clear edge that winning the toss will have in the upcoming series - a decision to bat first, as is often the case, is virtually mandatory.

Ashes betting: Why you need a pacey attack

To succeed in Australia, a strong pace attack is also mandatory, as is evidenced by the table below, which shows Test bowling records in Australia from 2014 onwards:

Competition

Balls Bowled

Runs

Wickets

Average

Economy

Bowling

Strike Rate

1st Innings, in Australia, vs. Pace

6363

3401

102

33.34

3.21

62.38

2nd Innings, in Australia, vs. Pace

8188

4446

152

29.25

3.26

53.87

3rd Innings, in Australia, vs. Pace

6056

3183

117

27.21

3.15

51.76

4th Innings, in Australia, vs. Pace

4340

1974

85

23.22

2.73

51.06

1st Innings, in Australia, vs. Spin

4407

2390

76

31.45

3.25

57.99

2nd Innings, in Australia, vs. Spin

3829

1988

53

37.51

3.12

72.25

3rd Innings, in Australia, vs. Spin

3781

1995

57

35.00

3.17

66.33

4th Innings, in Australia, vs. Spin

2068

1182

39

30.31

3.43

53.03

Here we can clearly see that as matches get older pace thrives, with pace bowling average runs per wicket as well as economy rates in the 3rd and 4th innings of matches dropping markedly. In what is opposite to many subcontinent pitches, pitch deterioration does not particularly benefit spinners.

Are the different venues important?

Analysis of the five venues is also useful, as a clear difference is portrayed between them.

It is obvious looking at the table below that every single Ashes venue has a clear bias towards pace bowling compared to spin bowling, with the average pace runs per wicket well below 40 at all venues, while spin runs per wicket average aren’t far from 50 everywhere.

Batting and bowling stats from different Ashes venues

Ground

Mean First Innings Score since 2010

Mean Runs Per Wicket since 2010

Runs Per Wicket vs. Pace Bowling since 2010

Runs Per Wicket vs. Spin Bowling since 2010

Brisbane (1st Test)

385

38.47

38.10

49.33

Adelaide (2nd Test)

421

36.00

33.01

49.85

Perth (3rd Test)

307

32.93

31.28

47.96

Melbourne (4th Test)

338

33.14

31.16

49.17

Sydney (5th Test)

332

35.62

32.79

49.00

With this in mind, it would be a mistake to put too much faith in specialist spinners - particularly a second spinner such as Mason Crane for England - while Australia may be better off dropping specialist spinner Nathan Lyon and picking a batsman who can bowl spin, such as Glenn Maxwell or Travis Head.

In Australia, batting conditions historically have been excellent, with a batting average of 37.60 (far greater than the worldwide mean of 31.98) recorded in Tests since the start of 2014.

We can also see that the first two Ashes venues, Brisbane and Adelaide, are the most batting friendly of the five venues, with considerably higher mean first innings scores as well as higher average runs per wicket.

While draws are unlikely given decent weather forecasts and the frail nature of the probable batting line-ups, there would look to be a higher chance of a draw in one of the opening two tests. It would be beneficial to mould your Ashes betting strategy around the venue at which the game is taking place at.

Analysing Australia's squad strength

Australia have now named their squad and it contains a shock inclusion, with wicket-keeper Tim Paine - who turns 33 during the series - included despite not having played Test cricket since 2010 and not having scored a first-class century in a decade. Cameron Bancroft has also been selected, with opening batsman Matt Renshaw, as well as wicket-keeper Matthew Wade, dropped.

Their batting is strong, with Steven Smith, David Warner, Shaun Marsh, Usman Khawaja and Peter Handscomb all having expected Test averages above the mean (based on my algorithm at sportsanalyticsadvantage.com).

Australia’s bowling is also excellent - led by Mitchell Starc (expected Test bowling average of 22.00), all of their main pacemen (Jackson Bird, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins) have expected Test bowling averages much better than the worldwide mean.

Concerns for Australia focus on their batting depth, particularly if they pick up any injuries. In contrast, England have in recent years benefited from a long, solid lower-order in recent years - this is Australia’s downfall, although both Starc and Cummins are also capable with the bat.

Analysing England's squad strength

England’s squad has been known for a while, and the strengths and weaknesses are well documented.

Just three batsmen - captain Joe Root, former captain Alastair Cook and wicket-keeper batsman Jonny Bairstow - can claim to be considerably above average, and the rest of their batting options have expected Test averages at or below the worldwide mean runs per wicket. James Vince (expected average 24.75) looks an extremely bizarre selection.

The suspension of Ben Stokes will also hit England hard, with the Durham all-rounder providing both batting and bowling options. England’s lower-order will not be as strong as in recent years, with both spin-all rounder Moeen Ali, pace bowling all-rounder Chris Woakes and the aforementioned Bairstow having to move up one spot in the order.

To succeed in Australia, a strong pace attack is also mandatory and every single Ashes venue has a clear bias towards pace bowling compared to spin bowling.

England look likely to add a bowler in place of Stokes, and given his superior ability with the bat than the rest, it would be a surprise if it wasn’t Craig Overton, who would be likely to bat at nine.

Looking at their bowlers, England have the world-class, but ageing, Jimmy Anderson leading the attack. However, it’s worth noting that his bowling average in Ashes matches in Australia is very poor indeed, at 38.44, and only taking wickets every 69.35 balls bowled.

The different conditions and ball that he faces in Australia do not look to give him nearly as much of an advantage as in England.

Joining Anderson is likely to be Stuart Broad and the previously mentioned Woakes, Overton and Ali. While this isn’t quite as good an attack statistically as the Australian options, it is one that can take wickets when performing well. England’s issues look more likely to come with the bat, as opposed to the ball.

With Australia having a strong record at home, and home teams having a huge edge in recent Ashes series, it will certainly require a very strong England performance across the series to have any chance of retaining the urn, which they will also do with a drawn series.

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