With the Ashes series between England and Australia just a few months away, the Aussies seem to be stepping up their preparations with former Test captain Steve Smith set for a spell at Sussex pre Ashes.
If Smith is confirmed to be joining Sussex, the County Championship side's decision will be met with a mixed reaction. English cricket fans will be unhappy with the county for allowing an influential member of the Australia team to fine tune his technique on English wickets. Especially given this is probably the most eagerly anticipated Ashes series since 2005. On the flip side, all those involved with Sussex will be arguing in favor of the move.
Aussies are all of a sudden keen to play in England
It's not often you see the best Australian Test cricket stars playing in the English County Championship. But come an Ashes year in England, and all of a sudden there can be increased interest from Aussies who usually deride the English first class domestic game. By and large, the Aussies class the English County Championship as vastly inferior to their own domestic Sheffield Shield competition.
So why come and play in England? You might ask.
Well, it’s rumored that there is an Australian players’ WhatsApp group called “Stevosgoingtogetyou.” This is based on the former Kent all rounder Darren Stevens, who got Australia’s Marnus Labuschagne out twice, and Travis Head once, in last season’s County Championship for scores of 11,11, and 20. All on wickets favoring slow seam bowlers.
For anybody not in the know, Darren Stevens is a 46-year-old all rounder. Not wishing to insult Stevens, but even by his own admission, he is a County Championship standard player, who shouldn’t really be getting Test class batters like Labuschagne and Head out on a regular basis. The reason he can, is down to favorable bowling conditions in England.
This goes some way to explaining the importance of the Australian batters getting used to the Dukes ball (a Kookaburra ball is used in Australia), and the English conditions in general. And is exactly why Steve Smith wants to go to England to play.
Australian should have win the 2019 Ashes Series
Back in 2019, Australia were the better side in England, but they still didn’t win the series. As holders of the Ashes, all that the team - led at the time by wicketkeeper Tim Paine - needed to do was draw the series to retain the Urn, which is exactly what they did, drawing the series 2-2.
Whilst happy to keep the Urn, plenty were unhappy with Australia failing to win the series. Especially given it was a poor England side at the time. They were in pole position to go 2-0 up (with two to play) in the 3rd Test at Headingley, until that ridiculous Ben Stokes innings.
🕞 3:17pm - 268-9
🕓 4:17pm - England win by one wicket
"The Ashes well and truly alive because of one cricketer!"
— Sky Sports Cricket (@SkyCricket) August 25, 2019
They did recover to go 2-1 up by winning the 4th Test at Old Trafford by 185 runs.
But with the series there for the taking, they lost the 5th Test at the Oval by 135 runs. And subsequently drew the series.
Reasons why Australia didn't win the 2019 series outright
But how did Australia not win the series outright? The answer to that question can be partly answered by the poor form of some of Australia’s top batters. David Warner for one.
In 2019, opening batter David Warner just couldn't click in England. Warner averaged just 9.5 with the bat, with Stuart Broad in particular enjoying success against the controversial left hander, dismissing Warner seven times in ten Test innings.
This led to the Barmy Army (an English supporter’s group) pretending to sell Warner’s Ashes bat on the internet. With the key line, never used, the main play in the joke.
— England's Barmy Army (@TheBarmyArmy) September 15, 2019
Warner just couldn’t get to grips with English conditions in 2019. And it’s this frailty of playing against the moving, seaming ball in England, that has proved to be the Achilles Heel of Australian touring parties for over 20 years now.
And this was one of the main reasons for their failure to win the series outright in England back in 2019.
2023 Ashes Betting
Thanks to England’s Test revival under Brendon McCullum in 2022, the odds on the Ashes have now changed to the point where England and Australia are now nearly the same price with all the cricket betting online sites.
|2023 Ashes Winner Betting
In the immediate aftermath of the Ashes bloodbath Down Under in 2021/22 (Australia won the best of five series 4-0), Australia were around -200 to win in England. They are now +100.
— CricTracker (@Cricketracker) January 16, 2022
The change in odds isn’t down to anything happening to the Australia team. It’s pretty much where it was when it thrashed England just over a year ago. The change in the latest cricket odds is purely down to the way England are now playing.
Since Brendon McCullum took over as new coach, and Ben Stokes as new captain, England have won nine of their ten Test matches. This has seen England’s latest cricket betting odds to win the Ashes cut to just +135. Another drawn series is +600.
These odds are taken from BetOnline. You can read more about them at our BetOnline sportsbook review.
Will England close the loophole?
In what looks set to be a tight series, both sides will be looking to gain any advantage they can.
The last thing England needs is to be giving Australia an unnecessary helping hand. You would never see an English Test player playing Sheffield Shield cricket in the lead up to an Ashes series in Australia. The Aussies wouldn't have it.
So will England close this loophole and ensure that Australians can’t hone their skills in England? Probably not. Whether this warrants a bet on Australia to win is another question though. I can see their odds continue to drift. So if you do think Australia will win, it might be worth waiting a bit longer before wagering on them.
Otherwise, let’s wait until a bit closer to the time, and see who is fit, available, and in-form, before we make any further picks.