Bowlers to thrive in Ashes opener
Our Dave Tickner expects batsmen to struggle when the Ashes series gets under way at Trent Bridge on Wednesday.
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The eagerly-anticipated Ashes series gets under way on Wednesday, and the choice of opening venue raises the prospect of an explosive start to the campaign.
Trent Bridge is one of the finest grounds in the world, but it's fair to say the England bowlers will be happier than the batsmen to rock up in Nottingham.
James Anderson (17.74) and Stuart Broad (21.35) both have averages way ahead of their overall record having consistently thrived on the swing-friendly conditions, with Anderson needing only three wickets to overhaul Alec Bedser as the leading Test wicket-taker at the ground.
- 1pt no century in first Ashes Test at 7/1 (888sport, Unibet) - both sides look stronger with ball than bat, with conditions likely to bring all types of bowler into the game.
- 1pt James Anderson to take 5+ wickets in first innings at 7/1 (Ladbrokes) - Has three five-wicket hauls in six first innings at Trent Bridge, and also claimed five in his first innings of New Zealand series.
Tim Bresnan, if selected, will also be happy to get another chance at a ground where he's picked up 15 wickets at 15 apiece.
In contrast, the batsmen have struggled. Alastair Cook averages under 20 in Nottingham, while neither he nor Jonathan Trott have even a Test half-century here. Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen and Matt Prior have all at least managed a Test century here, but none have records to match their overall stats.
Add in an already-dry pitch that will have been further baked by the recent heatwave, and you bring reverse-swing and spin right into the equation and also lessen the likelihood of batting becoming significantly easier as the ball gets older.
Australia's squad, so short on experience of an Ashes tour, is likely to shape up the same way. An impressive pace attack of Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson should all find something to enjoy here, while if the pitch does turn then Nathan Lyon should not be underestimated.
With the weather set fair for five days, and given their bowlers' records here and general superiority, England look a perfectly reasonable bet at 10/11 on a ground where they have won their last four matches by wide margins and have seven wins and a draw in the last 10.
But Australia may well have this down as a game where the combination of conditions and their bowling attack allow them to narrow the gap and make a statement of their own.
Rather than back one side against the other, perhaps better to back the bowlers against the batsmen. Three of the last 13 Trent Bridge Test matches have failed to produce an individual century, and the 7/1 available for no three-figure score this time around looks more than fair given the conditions and line-ups.
Both sides look stronger with the ball for this game, with rejigging aplenty in both top orders. Three of the four opening batsmen in this game didn't perform the role in their team's last Test, while key batsmen on both sides are feeling their way back after injury.
At the risk of putting too many eggs in the bowling basket, I also can't resist Ladbrokes' 7/1 for Anderson to take five or more wickets in the first innings.
He's done so three times in six first innings in Nottingham, and we need go back only two Test matches to Lord's in May to find the last example of Anderson using his mastery of swinging conditions to pick up a five-fer in his first innings of the series against New Zealand as he removed all the tourists' top four on his way past 300 Test scalps.