02 September 2019, by: Jonhenry Wilson

THE ASHES: FOURTH TEST PREVIEW

Old Trafford is the scene for the fourth Ashes Test where Australia and England are level at 1-1 with the momentum certainly with England after Ben Stokes’ heroics at Headingley.

Here’s your betting preview for the Test in Manchester:

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Overview

This Ashes series has set an excellent precedent for the newly-introduced Test Championship. Context is at a premium in modern-day cricket. While one of cricket’s oldest Test rivalries hardly requires additional meaning, the Test Championship certainly provides more.  

The Test at Lord’s in London was headlined by successive centuries from batsman Steven Smith. The second at Edgbaston in Birmingham saw debutant Jofra Archer make an immediate impact with near unrivalled pace. The third at Headingley in Leeds was masterminded by all-rounder Ben Stokes. The 2019 Ashes series, indeed, has been entirely entertaining so far – and even more is anticipated in this week’s fourth Test at Old Trafford in Manchester.

BET: FOURTH ASHES TEST

Personnel

England will again be without fast bowler James Anderson. He has finally been ruled out of the entire series with a calf injury. Australia will have Steve Smith, who was left out of the third Test due to a concussion, back. Who departs the XI for him, though, remains in the balance. Middle-order men Travis Head and Matthew Wade might exit, especially if the Aussie’s loop in all-rounder Mitchell Marsh. His addition would certainly help with workload management and rotation of the seamers.

The hosts’ XI will almost definitely see positional changes. Opener Jason Roy will likely be pushed into the middle order – and the disappointing Joe Denly to the top. Roy hasn’t been able to convert a fine stretch of form in limited-overs cricket into success in the longest form, while Denly’s inability to graduate promising starts to innings of significance is among England’s chief concerns.

BET: FOURTH ASHES TEST

Strengths and weaknesses

Australia were evidently jolted by defeat in Leeds, where captain Tim Paine’s poor use of the Decision Review System and spinner Nathan Lyon’s fumble at a crucial juncture have since demanded answers. A win at Headingley would have seen the Ashes title retained, but instead, the tourists must try again in Manchester, where the hosts will be on the proverbial front foot mentally.

England were buoyed by Stokes’ brilliance in the final of the World Cup earlier this year – and again in Leeds. He can’t always deliver results almost single-handedly – and Roy, Denly and the rest must offer adequate support. Australia will attempt to neutralise the threat posed by Stokes, who has relished a sensational year. Whichever way the battle within the war is going to stack, big names like Stokes, Smith, Archer and a couple of others are going to remain at the fore – and prove the difference at crunch times.

BET: FOURTH ASHES TEST

Conditions

Old Trafford, like Lord’s, is prone to draws. England have played 77 Tests at the venue for the fourth Test, with 28 wins, 14 defeats and 35 draws. Host captain Joe Root recovered from consecutive ducks with a handy half-century in Leeds – and boasts a Test average of over 100 after seven innings at Old Trafford. This ground, of course, was the scene of his career-best 254 against Pakistan three years ago. England have not lost a Test at Old Trafford in almost two decades. They have not beaten Australia in a Test here, though, since 1981.

In Anderson’s absence, spinner Moeen Ali and seamer Stuart Broad are the leading Test wicket-takers in Manchester among the current crop. Quartet Smith, Usman Khawaja, Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle played in Australia’s last Test at Old Trafford, in 2013. Smith, Starc and Siddle succeeded then, while Khawaja failed.

Rain, unfortunately, is expected across days one through four. The competitive nature of the series – and the push for quick wickets and big runs – should compensate for play lost to inclement weather, though. Preparation of the pitch won’t be helped by wet conditions. A deck that has sweated under covers might prompt Paine or Root to bowl first if triumphant at the flip of the coin. No captain has opted to bowl first in a Test at Old Trafford since England’s Graham Gooch in 1993, which resulted in defeat to the Australians. 

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Preferred Punts

England’s last Test here was in 2017 when victory completed a three-one series success over South Africa. Root and fellow right-hander Jonny Bairstow were among the top run-scorers in that fixture. Root, in particular, is backed to succeed this time, too. Those successive ducks left him smarting somewhat – and a freakish dismissal in the second innings in Leeds effectively prevented graduation to three figures. At a venue that brought a big Test double-ton against Pakistan in 2016, the home side’s captain is tipped for another big one this time.

Australia might be tempted to rest seamer Josh Hazlewood in a bid to get left-armer Mitchell Starc into the XI. Hazlewood and Starc in tandem is an option, too, which would probably leave right-armer James Pattinson sidelined. Australia have more seam options than England, who are grappling with the ongoing absence of Anderson – and late inclusion of the inexperienced Craig Overton. Hazlewood, then, will likely top the wicket-takers in Manchester.

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