Australia v England: Hosts favourites to take Ashes opener

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The 2017-18 Ashes burst into life this week when Australia and England contest the opening Test at the famous Gabba in Brisbane.

England are current holders of the Urn, after prevailing 3-2 on home soil in 2015.

But they will have sharp memories of their 5-0 trouncing on their last visit Down Under three years ago.

Much has changed since. Not least that Alastair Cook has stepped down as skipper to be succeeded by Joe Root.

And the tourists are still trying to work out their prime batting order, thanks in part to Ben Stokes’ enforced absence.

So it’s Australia who have the upper hand and Steve Smith’s men are 2/5 for the Series and 8/11 to claim the opener.

England are 10/3 to retain the Ashes, and 11/4 to bag a huge result with a win in Brisbane.

The visitors have won just nine of their 45 Ashes Tests Down Under since 1982.

But South Africa proved in their 2-1 Series win 12 months ago that the Aussies can be beaten on home soil.

England will need a huge performance from captain Root, who is out to make up for a dismal time on his last Ashes visit to Oz.

The skipper is 3/1 favourite to top-score in his side’s first innings, with Cook behind on 7/2.

David Warner and captain Smith share 11/4 favouritism in the same market for the baggy greens.

As for the bowlers, England will again look to James Anderson to do the damage with the Kookaburra ball.

The Lancashire legend is 5/2 to take the most wickets in his first innings. But the tourists will only prevail if they can support the 35-year-old Anderson in attack.

Stuart Broad is 11/4 to claim the most wickets in the opening innings, with Chris Woakes 3/1 and Moeen Ali 5/1.

Mitchell Starc leads the line for the Aussies. The 27-year-old is the hosts’ 7/4 favourite to hit the most wickets in England’s opening stint with the bat.

There’s plenty for Root and co to fear though. Starc is ably-supported by Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon.

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All Odds and Markets correct as of date of publication

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