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Ashes predictions: Winner, top run-scorer, leading wicket-taker and breakout star as England face Australia


England face Australia as they attempt to win back the Ashes (Picture: Getty)

England’s quest to win back the Ashes starts in Brisbane on Wednesday morning, with Joe Root’s side beginning a five-match Test series against Australia at the Gabba.

Australia regained the Ashes with a 2-2 draw in England in the summer of 2019, and will be confident of holding onto the urn having won nine out of ten Tests against the old enemy in their last two home series.

England are certainly underdogs but can Chris Silverwood’s team – buoyed by the return of star all-rounder Ben Stokes – cause an upset or will Australia win a third successive home Ashes series?

Winner

Australia 3-1 England

Australia are a formidable side at home. Yes, they were turned over by India this time last year, but that said more about India’s frightening strength in depth than Australia’s vulnerability.

Their attack is superb, with Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood brilliant seamers and Nathan Lyon approaching 400 Test wickets. In Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne, they have two players averaging more than 60 with the bat.

England have been an inconsistent Test side for a significant period now and have only won one Ashes series in Australia since 1987. But it’s not just that England rarely win in Australia, the issue is they rarely compete. A 5-0 whitewash in 2013-14 was followed by a 4-0 defeat in 2017-18.

The team are clearly capable; James Anderson and Stuart Broad are two greats of the game and Joe Root will likely go down as England’s greatest ever batter. The return of Ben Stokes is also huge so they should win a Test, but they remain huge underdogs to reclaim the urn.

Joe Root’s side begin a five-match Test series at the Gabba (Picture: Getty)

Leading run-scorer

Steve Smith (Australia)

Who else? His record is frankly extraordinary. To average more than 60 over 77 Tests is remarkable and places him second behind Sir Don Bradman for the highest average in Test cricket for anyone who has made more than 20 appearances.

In 27 Tests against England, Smith has scored 2,800 runs and 11 centuries at an average of 65. Like the rest of his team-mates, he will need to find form on the go given both team’s poor preparation and Australia’s inactivity in 2021, but there’s no reason to doubt the 32-year-old.

Joe Root, who has already scored 1,455 runs and six tons this year, and Marnus Labuschagne, who averages 61, could run Smith close, but there is a sense of inevitability about Australia’s new vice-captain that is absent in most other players.



Leading run-scorer in the Ashes

Steve Smith: 9/4
Marnus Labuschagne: 7/2
Joe Root: 7/2
David Warner: 5/1
Ben Stokes: 9/1
Marcus Harris: 12/1
Dawid Malan: 25/1

(Odds courtesy of Betfair)

Steve Smith’s record – in Test cricket and Ashes matches – is brilliant (Picture: Getty)

Top wicket-taker

Josh Hazlewood (Australia)

There’s plenty of competition for this one but Hazlewood is a brilliant bowler who has taken 57 of his 212 Test wickets against England.

Ollie Robinson, who made his international debut last summer, has been likened to Hazlewood and could be set for another breakthrough series, although his inexperience in Australia may show.

Pat Cummins will be among the wickets but it will be interesting to see how he juggles the captaincy with his bowling, and whether he can get through all five Tests.

England will hope to see James Anderson and Stuart Broad make some early inroads but their attack is likely to be rotated more than Australia’s, with Chris Woakes, Mark Wood and Craig Overton also vying for spots in the side.

Josh Hazlewood is a star in all formats for Australia (Picture: Getty)

Breakout star

Cameron Green (Australia)

A highly-rated all-rounder, Green has flattered to deceive in his brief Test career so far but it won’t be long before he announces himself as an international star.

Standing at 6ft 6, Green is a formidable batter and improving bowler. The 22-year-old already averages more than 50 with the bat in first-class cricket, making 15 scores of fifty or more in 34 Sheffield Shield matches.

Comparisons with England’s Ben Stokes have already been made and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Green contribute with bat and ball in the Ashes.

Discussing Green ahead of the opening Test, Australia skipper Cummins said: ‘He looks fast, he’s tall – I don’t like facing him, he’s a handful – so I think we’ll see a few more overs out of him this summer.’

While Jos Buttler is far from an unknown quantity, it will be interesting to see how he fares given he has never played a red-ball game in Australia and could decide to focus on white-ball cricket following the Ashes.

Cameron Green will be keen to kick on following a slow start to his Test career (Picture: Getty)

England captain Joe Root, speaking ahead of the first Ashes Test:

‘Of course it will define my captaincy, I’m not naive enough to think it won’t.

‘If you look how hard it’s been for English captains and English teams [to win in Australia] over the years, it has been something which doesn’t happen very often.

‘But what a great opportunity. I’m very excited about it and can’t wait for the series to get going.

‘What better stage to really grab a series and make an announcement on the international stage? To say, “I’m an Ashes player and I want to live in the history of this great rivalry”. That carrot is there for everyone.’

Australia skipper Tim Paine:

‘Steve Smith, Davey Warner, or even the other bowlers… I’ll be sounding them out and making sure they’re pretty strong with their feedback.

‘If it’s late in the day and there’s only a couple of overs, I might feel like I want to have a crack.

‘I probably won’t [take the new ball] first up, but in recent years we’ve been quite fluid depending on the situation.

‘I haven’t made up my mind, but probably Joshy [Hazlewood] and Mitch [Starc] will start off, with me not far behind them… that might change.’

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