The 2013 Ashes Cricket series starts on Wednesday with the first of five Tests, beginning at Trent Bridge between England and Australia. In the first of a series of articles in the run up to Wednesday, we take a look at the two batting sides, and opportunities within those betting markets for this eagerly anticipated series

Recommendations

England Jonathan Trott Top England Batsman in the Ashes 7/2 BetVictor

Australia Michael Clarke Top Australia Batsman in the Ashes 9/4 PaddyPower

Firstly lets look at England.

The top six line up is as follows

Alistair Cook
Joe Root
Jonathan Trott
Kevin Pietersen
Ian Bell
Jonathan Bairstow

Three of these players average over 50 in Test Cricket, all over significant sample sizes. Cook and Trott are accumulators, Pietersen is all dashing flair. Looking over a five Test Series I think we can use these three as the short list for the top English batsman.

Outside these three Root now moves up to open the batting and could well form a partnership with Cook at the top of the order for the next decade. With a fantastic temperament and a good technique he is likely to be supported but it is a big ask to ask him to outscore Cook and Trott against a very competitive Australian seam attack

Ian Bell has been out of form in Test Cricket for the best part of a year. Bairstow is relatively inexperienced and to my mind still has some technical deficiencies

If we look at the prices for Top scoring English batsmen:

Cook 3-1
Trott 7-2
Pietersen 7-2
Root 5-1
Bell 8-1
Bairstow 16-1

My suggestion is that Trott is decent value here, in what I said above is basically a three way market.

Australia

The situation for Australia is a bit more fluid, as befitting a side less settled than England’s and with a recent history of selectorial flux.

The Australians have one undisputed world class performer in Michael Clarke and that aside a series of doubts

The likely line up is

Shane Watson
Chris Rogers
Ed Cowan
Michael Clarke
Phil Hughes
David Warner/Usman Khawaja or Steve Smith

Looking through this line up, Watson in Test Cricket is an unfulfilled talent. He averages under 40, with only two hundreds in over forty Tests and that represents a poor conversion rate for a player that hits fifty frequently. This could be his breakthrough series, but a recent history of inter-personal problems with captain and coaches means you are taking a lot on trust to back that

Rogers has only played one Test but has the benefit of a successful nine years in County Cricket averaging over 50 for Middlesex.

Cowan has a patchy Test Record and much to prove. Unlikely to score heavily enough over five tests for consideration here

Hughes has long struggles with technical deficiencies which manifest themselves in English conditions

As for the sixth player, I wouldn’t back on Warner, Khawaja or Smith playing five Tests such that it would bring them into contention in the Tp Australian Batsman market

Looking at prices:

Michael Clarke 9/4
Shane Watson 9/2
Chris Rogers 5/1
Ed Cowan 8/1
David Warner 9/1
Phil hughes 10/1

Whilst Watson is tempting on talent, the safe and confident choice here is Michael Clarke. Over 7,000 runs in 92 Test Matches averaging nearly 53 with 49 scores over 50 including 26 hundreds. At his peak, with results that improved when he succeeded Ponting as Captain he should be the main thorn in the side of Anderson, Broad, Swann and compnay this summer

Recommendations

England Jonathan Trott Top England Batsman in the Ashes 7/2 BetVictor

Australia Michael Clarke Top Australia Batsman in the Ashes 9/4 PaddyPower