Have a ball with Harris
Our Dave Tickner looks at the bowling betting markets ahead of the Ashes and backs Ryan Harris to be the Aussies' main man.
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While competition for top England bowler honours looks like a fiercely competitive heat between James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann, the equivalent Aussie market looks more straightforward.
To my mind, it's a contest between Ryan Harris, and Ryan Harris' body.
Put simply, if he plays four of the five Test matches, he should win this market. His Test record is far superior to his contemporaries, with 71 wickets from 16 Tests at a truly world-class average of 22. Against England, he's taken 35 wickets in seven matches at 21.
- 3pts Ryan Harris top Australia bowler at 5/2 (general) - clearly Australia's standout bowler. His fragile body the main threat here
- 2pts Graeme Swann to be first England wicket-taker at 4/1 (Stan James) - two lefties at the top of Australia order. Rogers particularly vulnerable to Swann
- 2pts Peter Siddle top Australia bowler in first Test at 3/1 (Sky Bet, bwin) - made flying starts to last two Ashes series
His injury record is a legitimate cause for concern but after missing the first Test of the summer he played a full part in the other four. Despite missing that opener, Harris took 24 wickets, seven wickets clear of any other Australian.
He's played a full part for Queensland this season, with four Ryobi Cup one-dayers and two Sheffield Shield matches under his belt.
I can't pretend to know that his body will stand up to five Ashes Tests, but if it does, I'm confident he'll be at the top of the Aussie wicket list. At 5/2, it's worth the gamble. And if injury does rule him out at any stage, then there is at least the consolation of the boost it gives to our outright preview.
I'll head to the first Test markets for another couple of bowling-based wagers.
Peter Siddle is 3/1 to be Australia's top wicket-taker in the first innings at Brisbane, and the evidence of the last two Ashes series suggests that represents value.
Siddle took six for 54 on day one in Brisbane three years ago, including a hat-trick, and followed that up with five for 50 on the opening day at Trent Bridge in the summer.
This could be coincidence, but it does point to a man who needs no time to ease his way into a series. He's ready to go from the off. What's perhaps even more interesting is the way he has tailed off after that. In both 2010/11 and 2013 he failed to match those heights again. He's been ever-present across the two series, and those 11 day-one wickets represent over a third of his total haul for the 10 matches.
I also can't resist the 4/1 offered by Stan James for Graeme Swann to be England's first wicket-taker in the series.
Now obviously, this is a bet that may not get a run, but at the price I think it's worth it. Because not only do Australia have two left-handers at the top of the order - Swann's record against southpaws is well documented - but one of them is Chris Rogers, who became the off-spinner's bunny during the summer. Six of Rogers' last seven dismissals in the series came by Swann's hand, and you can be sure that England will waste little time in turning to the off-spinner should Rogers and Dave Warner survive the new ball spells of Broad and Anderson.