Cricket / Preview / Betting Preview Cricket The Ashes

The Ashes Series

At the beginning of the summer, Bettorlogic recommended England to lift the Ashes at a best price of 3.25.

Andrew Strauss lifts the Ashes for England


 

England (3.25) v Australia (1.83) – 5-Test series

  • 1st Test – Cardiff, Jul 8-12
  • 2nd Test – Lord’s, Jul 16-20
  • 3rd Test – Edgbaston, Jul 30-Aug 3
  • 4th Test – Headingley, Aug 7-11
  • 5th Test - The Oval, Aug 20-24

Key factors

In determining the most likely winner of the 2009 Ashes series we have looked in detail at past series to find the key factors that, pre-series, were common to the winning team and lacking in the losing team. We settled on seven key categories:

  • Holders (retained 66%, 1953-2007)
  • Home and holders (retained 82%, 1953-2007)
  • Regained Ashes previous series (won 78%, 1953-2007)
  • Last three series, home and away (won 70%, 1977-2007)
  • Last five home Tests (home side) versus last five away Tests (away side) (won 89%, 1980-2007)
  • Better opening batsmen’s five-Test form (won 63%, 1977-2007)
  • Better best four bowlers’ five-Test form (won 93%, 1977-2007)

The Holders

Holding the Ashes has proved a significant advantage for one obvious reason; you have only to draw the series to retain the urn. This puts extra pressure on the chasing team to play aggressively and often out of their comfort zone. Holders have retained the Ashes 19 times and lost them 10 times.

Since (and including) 1953, away teams have retained the urn 10/18 times (56%). This is an acceptable percentage but does not lead us to any strong conclusions. Holders at home, however, are almost invincible.

Only twice in 11 attempts has the team touring without the Ashes returned home with them (18%). This is irrelevant for this year but worth consideration in the overall analysis. Being at home in itself is no significant advantage. Of the last 29 series, 14 have been won by the home team, 11 by the away team and four were drawn.

What is more relevant this year is that teams who regain the Ashes rarely lose them in their next series. It has happened only twice (1985 and 2006/07) in the last nine first-time defences. Only twice was the initial defence on home turf. This statistic clearly favours Australia although England had the same consideration in their favour in 2006/07 and were hammered.

Match form

In terms of team form we found that setting the five-match home form of the home team against the five-match away form of the away team usually provided a good indicator of who would prevail. Since 1979 the team with more wins has won eight of nine series. This time round Australia have won two of their last five away Tests whilst England have won three of their last five at home.

We also found significance in the two teams’ last three series results (home AND away) prior to an Ashes contest. The team with more series wins has won seven of 11 since 1975 and six of the last seven. The away team usually had the better of things if the series wins were tied. In this case Australia are ahead as they have won two of their last three series (South Africa away and New Zealand at home) whilst England have won only one of theirs (West Indies at home).

One of the oddest stats about form coming into the Ashes is that for many years neither side tended to come in with a win from its previous home Test if they were at home, or away Test if they were away. Prior to the 2005 series England had to go back to 1974 to find the last time they had gone into an Ashes series having won the final match of their previous home series (if at home) or away series (if away). What is perhaps more surprising is that Australia suffered from the same ‘problem’. Between 1980 and 2002 they only once went into an Ashes series having won their previous home Test (if at home) or away Test (if away). The single exception was in 1994/95 when they had beaten South Africa at Adelaide 10 months earlier.

Now that has changed with the Aussies having won their most recent home Test before the 2002/03 series and the 2006/07 series, as well as their most recent away one before 2005. They lost their last away Test before this series however – a dead rubber in South Africa. England have also turned things round, winning their previous home Test before 2005 and in Mumbai before 2006/07. They go into the 2009 series on the back of a win in Durham against West Indies.

Player form

As for player form, we discovered that the most telling factors were the five-match averages of each team’s best four front-line bowlers and, to a lesser degree, of their opening batsmen at the start of the series.
Only seven times in the last 16 series have both teams gone into the first Test with four front-line bowlers who had all played at least four Tests. Taking the aggregate of the ‘last five Tests’ averages of each team’s best four bowlers (or career average for those who had played only four), the team with the lower aggregate has won all seven series.

When one team has had fewer than four eligible bowlers, they have lost seven of eight series. The sole exception was 1997 when Australia (for whom Michael Kasprowicz had played only two Tests) lost the first Test but won the series 3-2. In 1993 both teams had only three eligible bowlers for the first Test but Australia’s (Shane Warne, Craig McDermott and Merv Hughes) were far superior to England’s (Phil DeFreitas, Phil Tufnell and Chris Lewis). Overall, 14/15 Ashes series, where one side had an advantage in this area, were won by that side.

England have the edge here; an attack of James Anderson, Andrew Flintoff, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann has an aggregate five-match average of 111.08 whilst Australia’s best four available (which is Stuart Clark, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Hauritz) aggregates 116.82. We’ve deliberately used the figures for the first Test of the series as this ought to be both teams’ preferred line-ups. Any changes thereafter indicate a lack of early success or an important injury-absence.

We found that the form of the opening batsmen at the start of the series was also a good clue. In 10/16 series the team with the best aggregate averages from their opening batsmen’s ‘last five Tests’ won the series (where one team had a novice batsman as opener, we allocated a ‘win’ to their opponents unless they had a combined average below 70). England have had the better figures in this category prior to the last three Ashes series and in 2002 the combined figure of Michael Vaughan and Marcus Trescothick was 165.43 – the biggest on either side in the last 30 years.

This year Phillip Hughes’s lack of experience (three Tests) gives England the advantage but even if his career average from those three matches was counted, England’s pair of Andrew Strauss (71.87) and Alastair Cook (84.00) would still easily outpoint Hughes (69.16) and Simon Katich (43.70).

There have been 10 occasions when one team has been superior in both bowling AND opening batsmen and that team has won nine of those series (90%). England have held this double advantage on five occasions in the past 16 Ashes series (1978, 1981, 1985, 1997 and 2005) winning all but the 3-2 1997 series. They have the upper hand in both departments once again this year.

The results

We’ve multiplied each category ‘win’ by the current success percentage of that category to give each side an overall percentage figure. Using this method tracing back over the last 16 Ashes series (1977-2007) we found the eventual series winner had a higher percentage every year except 1977.

These figures are not indicative of how tight a series might be - the 2006/07 teams were separated by only 7% but Australia won 5-0 - but they do provide a good guide to who might be considered favourites at the start. The 1989 series when Australia regained the Ashes is probably considered the biggest shock result but, on this basis, Australia would’ve been slight favourites due to England’s out-of-form opening pair (Graham Gooch & Chris Broad) and inexperienced attack (Phil Newport, Phil DeFreitas, Neil Foster & Derek Pringle). Australia were 13% better than England by this system at the start of that summer but few could have predicted the 4-0 margin of victory.

The 1990/91 series was the most one-sided (pre-series) in terms of percentage differential; Allan Border’s men were ahead in every category that year. England’s re-emergence as our ‘favourites’ in 2005 was due to having a more in-form bowling attack, more-in-form opening batsmen and better home Test form than Australia’s away Test form.

Our view

Australia will claim that their most recent cricket has been against tougher opposition than England’s and that may indeed be relevant. Beating South Africa away was the impetus Michael Vaughan’s men needed coming into 2005 and Mark Taylor’s Australia brought momentum from a similar 2-1 win in South Africa into the 1997 series. The Aussies’ 3-0 win there in 2006 was also their last major series before the 2006/07 Ashes whitewash.

Amazingly the last drawn Ashes series was as long ago as 1972 so we are well overdue a level series. Victor Chandler have gone out on a limb making England favourites at 1.91 with the Aussies at 2.25. The general price for the home win is 3.25 with the Aussies around 1.67. The draw is set between 5.5 and 6.5.

All things considered we feel England are the value bet at the start of this series (3.45 Betfair). The key looks to be in their bowling attack which comes out on top of Australia’s despite having laboured long and hard (for the most part) on the dead pitches of the Caribbean for three of their last five matches. This has been the most important factor in past Ashes series and, with Ryan Sidebottom and Monty Panesar unable to force themselves into the side, there suddenly looks to be genuine strength in depth in the home attack. Juicier conditions in May have given England’s bowlers renewed confidence and the international emergence of Graeme Swann over the winter looks the most significant development for either side.

Recommendation

  • England win series at 3.45

 

 
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