Ashes 2015 preview: The Aussies’ woeful record in Wales won’t save England this time

 
Robin Hutchison
Grinning ways: Clarke and Co. can get off to a flying start in Cardiff (Source: Getty)
Unlike their rugby union counterparts, Australian cricketers rarely enjoy their infrequent trips to Wales.
When Stephen Moore leads his men out against Fiji in their opening match of World Cup Pool A in September he’ll do so on the back of six straight wins in Cardiff.
In contrast, the cricket side lost a World Cup match against New Zealand in 1999 and one day internationals against Bangladesh and England in 2005 and 2013.
They even contrived to throw away two touring games against Glamorgan in the 1960s after venturing down the M4 to Swansea.
While their first and only Test match to date at the SWALEC Stadium ended in a draw, in 2009, it felt like a defeat.
After hitting 674 for 6 in 181 one-sided overs, with four of the top seven scoring centuries, the visitors then reduced their hosts to 159 for 7 at tea on the final day.
When Paul Collingwood was dismissed all looked lost for England. But Jimmy Anderson and Monty Panesar then survived 69 balls through a combination of obduracy, luck, and blatant time-wasting.
Fast-forward six summers and I can’t see England surviving the opening skirmish this time.
Once again Australia are odds on favourites at 10/11 with Betway, with England available at 3/1, and the draw at 5/2.
With the weather set fair, we can probably rule out the draw. That begs one question: which team will take 20 wickets?
For my money the likelier of the two is Australia.
The premature retirement of Ryan Harris is a blow. Yet in Mitchells Johnson and Starc and Josh Hazlewood they have enough firepower to blow England away.
Should they need him, they can also throw the ball to Nathan Lyon, who is a far more convincing spinner than he was a few years back.
Not that I expect spin to feature heavily, or England to select two spinners, as they did in Panesar and Graeme Swann in 2009.
Instead, Moeen Ali will feature ahead of Adil Rashid, slotting in at eight.
England bat long as a result. But they will need to against an Aussie attack that has made short work of tail-enders in recent encounters.
England have only won two opening Tests in 10 of the last Ashes series, while Australia have won five.
In the absence of historical data on a new Test venue, that is a convincing statistic, and one that could set the tone for the whole series.
If Australia win the toss and decide to bat, as they surely must, it is worth having a few quid on Betway’s ‘dot or not’ first ball market.
David Warner was out for a third ball duck in his last Test outing. But if he wants to lay down a marker against a nervous opening bowler 3/1 looks too big for a scoring shot.

Pointers...

  • Australia to win first Ashes Test at 10/11 with Betway
  • First ball ‘dot or not’ - No at 3/1 with Betway

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