Interest in The Ashes series between England and Australia has now reached a fever pitched level since Ben Stokes’ and Jack Leech’s memorable heroics in the Third Test at Headingley last weekend. The hopes of retrieving the little urn had practically vanished until several key partnerships in the England chasing innings rallied hopes, culminating with a 73 run last wicket stand between Stokes and Leech which ensured a highly unlikely victory. This last defiant stand has now etched itself into Ashes folklore.
Therefore, the series is alive again with one victory each. However, although the momentum is clearly now with England, the inconsistent home side will not find it easy to get past this strong Australian team and they simply cannot keep relying on Ben Stokes to bail them out.
The additional factor of Aussie talisman Steve Smith returning from his concussion injury also adds another tricky dimension. We’ll take a fresh look at England’s chances in the next Test at Old Trafford starting on the 4th of September. We’ll also pick out some of the best Ashes bets still currently available for this fixture.
The England batting: what needs to change?
Joe Root to number 4?
This has to be the first change. Joe Root is probably England’s best recognised batsman but he is clearly struggling with the number 3 slot, especially as the openers are also in the same predicament, meaning that Root is coming out to bat far earlier than he would like.
Root is also not seeing the ball as well as he has done in previous seasons. Reinstating him back to his customary batting position might give him confidence especially facing a match ball which has seen a few more overs than in previous innings.
Jason Roy has to go or at least be reshuffled. The selectors simply cannot tolerate a Test opening batsman who has not reached double figures once in this Ashes series. There are options. Joe Denly could be given the opportunity to open with Rory Burns whilst Roy is given another opportunity further down the order. Ollie Pope or James Vince could come in to replace the similarly struggling Jos Buttler. Either way, expect to see some significant changes.
James Anderson is giving good signs that he is ready to return to action after bowling 20 overs for the Lancashire 2nd XI recently. He looks certain to replace Chris Woakes.
This is likely to be the only change as Archer and Broad continue to successfully find vulnerabilities in the Australian batting order.
Australia: How important is Steve Smith?
Providing the knock from Jofra Archer’s lethal delivery in the Lords test hasn’t dented Smith’s technique or confidence, England will have to work hard to find a way of limiting Steve Smith’s uncanny habit of scoring an abundance of runs.
Archer will of course be key in this crucial battle and Root will spare no mercy in hoping Archer will trigger some painful memories with some equally vicious bowling at the Australian number 3 for the Manchester test.
However, Jack Leech could also be an integral part of the plan as Smith does struggle against left arm spin. Statistically, Smith has a Test average of 96 against all types of bowling with the exception of left arm spin, where his average here is just 22.
Best Bets for the 4th Test at Old Trafford, 4th-8th September
The momentum factor is clearly with England and current pricing for overall winner reflects this.
Current Best Prices
6/5 England win: Boylesports
13/8 Australia win: Betfair, Paddy Power
4/1 The Draw: William Hill
Man Of The Match
If you fancy Ben Stokes to repeat anything like his Headingley antics, you might be tempted to delve into the 4th test Man Of The Match markets. Steve Smith and Ben Stokes dominate the market here not surprisingly, although Jofra Archer’s fearsome reputation continues to grow.
Top Australia Batsman
Steve Smith leads the market here. 7/4 seems a fair and very tempting price.
Top England Batsman
Joe Root clings onto favouritism here but there’ll be plenty of renewed interest in Ben Stokes.
Top England Bowler
Jofra Archer is expected to put another bold show in the Old Trafford test and his price reflects this. Anderson also back in the markets.
Please note all odds are correct at the time of publishing (18:00 29th August 2019) and are subject to change.