England has made the worst possible preparation for The Ashes by suffering a humiliating series defeat against a struggling West Indies side. The hosts were on a poor run of form and England were expected to turn up and secure a comfortable whitewash against such unheralded opposition. Instead, it has resulted in disaster as Joe Root’s men were comprehensively beaten in the first and second Tests. This is the last series for the team before the Ashes later this year and Root will need to spark a vast improvement if they are to prevail in that eagerly anticipated clash.
England succumbed to a 4-0 defeat in the last Ashes, held Down Under at the end of 2017 and the start of 2018. However, confidence was high in their ability to gain sweet revenge this year. The host nation has won eight of the last nine Ashes series, so that already gives Root’s men a big advantage. Then there is the state of the Australian team, down to fifth in the world rankings after suffering an identity crisis in the wake of the ball-tampering scandal that saw Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft hit with long bans.
Yet the Aussies can now look forward to the series with fresh optimism. They have endured a tough year, but a 2-0 win over Sri Lanka in their final series before the Ashes begin in August will buoy them. If you peruse the BetOnline odds and find the best betting prices and of the most well-regarded sportsbook on the market you will see that England are still the favorites to win the Ashes, but the gap has seriously narrowed after their humbling in the West Indies. You can now get 4/5 on England and 13/8 on Australia, and the Aussies were much bigger underdogs a couple of weeks ago.
All of a sudden, Root’s position as captain is looking really perilous. He averaged 53 before he was given the job, and he has managed just 42 since. In the past year, that has dropped to a mere 33. There is an argument to put someone else in charge and free Root up to wreak havoc at number three, but that is unlikely to happen before the Ashes. Yet it points to turmoil in the England camp, and there is a lot of pressure on the selectors to come up with a top three that can fire the English to victory.
Joe Denly does not look like the answer, and his tame dismissals for seven and 17 against the West Indies were proof of that. Keaton Jennings also underwhelmed, and there is a case for starting the Ashes with James Vince and Rory Burns as openers, with Root and Jonny Bairstow in their Yorkshire positions, then Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes.
Either way, England have proved they are vulnerable and they look unbalanced, with suggestions that they lack the temperament to play a first-class game, so the Australians could capitalize. Then there is the tantalizing prospect of Smith and Warner returning to the Australian team and catapulting the tourists to glory. Their bans will have ended by then, and they really could strike fear into the hearts of the England bowlers. Smith, in particular, was unplayable for large swathes of the last Ashes, and his return would provide a timely boost to a somewhat floundering team.
The leadership Warner and Smith would provide, even in an unofficial capacity, could well prove invaluable as they are a hugely experienced, battle-hardened star. “I see us going to the Ashes and them having a huge part in us winning the series,” said Tim Paine, who replaced Smith as captain. “We know how good they are and hopefully once their bans are up, they’ll be welcomed back. Those two have got plenty of runs in the bank.” The Australians are starting to build a squad with strong depth, and they will be fired up for the Ashes, so it is shaping up to be a classic.
The Ashes Series will get underway on 1st of August with the 1st of 5 Tests at Edgbaston.