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Cricket Opinion

Five Reasons Australia Have The Edge Going Into The Ashes

The countdown is on to the most eagerly anticipated event of the cricketing calendar as the 2017/18 Ashes series begins in less than a month. Last time England visited Australia they were whitewashed and pessimism abounds among their fans right now. Australia are in a bullish mood going into the five-test series and will feel confident of regaining the Ashes as they will be spurred on by passionate home crowds. Here are five reasons why they can pull it off:

No Stokes, no Ashes

The tourists will be without talismanic all-rounder Ben Stokes, who has been suspended by the England and Wales Cricket Board. He is on police bail on suspicion of assaulting a fellow reveller outside a nightclub and will not travel to Australia for the tour. It is a devastating blow for England as he has emerged as their best player in recent times. Steve Smith rates him as one of the world’s greatest players and it is easy to see why he went for a world record fee in the last IPL auction.

England’s batting order looks lightweight without him and his absence will put too much pressure on bowlers Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad. Steve Waugh has already said that England cannot win without him and that seems to be the prevailing mood among pundits.

England fans think they will lose

The English have been lumping on their team to be whitewashed in the wake of the news that Stokes will not be heading Down Under. Oddschecker reported that more than 90% of series correct score bets from punters in England have gone on a 5-0 win to Australia. That is a pretty damning trend and it will not exactly fill Joe Root’s team with confidence going into the series.

History is on Australia’s side

The home team has won the Ashes on seven of the last eight occasions. The one exception was England’s victory in Australia back in 2010/11, but the current crop is not at that level. Just four players remain from that famous tour, and the newcomers to the squad generally represent a downgrade on the former stars. England scraped a 3-2 win at home in 2015/16, when both teams were in poor form, and both go into this series with their own problems.

England blew hot and cold against South Africa this year and were unconvincing in their last series against the West Indies. Meanwhile, Australia have struggled against India and could only draw with Bangladesh in their last series, and they now find themselves two places below England in the ICC world rankings. There is not a great deal between them, so home advantage really could swing it in Australia’s favour.

As such, they are the $1.45 favourites to win the series in the latest cricket odds at Oddschecker, while England are $5.00 outsiders. The bookmakers are a pretty sharp bunch and they all overwhelmingly favour Australia.

England are inexperienced and Australia smell blood

England’s selection for the tour drew criticism across the board: veteran broadcaster Jim Maxwell called it one of their “worst ever batting line-ups” and said England would lose 5-0, Kevin Pietersen said it is horrendous and they may as well stay at home, and others accused Root of picking his mates. Some of those comments are a little harsh, but what is hard to overlook is the sheer inexperience of England’s batting line-up. Mark Stoneman, Dawid Malan and James Vince have just 15 caps between them and Smith said his bowlers will try to exploit their lack of familiarity with the fast and bouncy tracks Down Under.

Vice-captain David Warner – who infamously punched Root a couple of years ago – has ramped up the mind games with more fighting talk, saying the Ashes will be like a “war” and promising to build up the “hatred” with England. If they can channel that aggression into keeping Root and Alastair Cook quiet, they should regain the Ashes with ease.

Hosts can blunt Anderson

Anderson is England’s record wicket-taker and their most potent weapon, but he was kept largely quiet back in the whitewash of 2013/14. They had him bowling plenty of overs and he did not take many wickets as they scored a lot of runs, so they could well have his measure once again. Anderson is now 35, while Broad is 31, and they will struggle to play at their highest level for five tests. The absence of Stokes and the loss of Toby Roland-Jones to injury puts more impetus on them, but they cannot hope to do it all themselves and risk being burnt out – another trend Australia can exploit to their advantage.

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Cricket Opinion

Australia Must Pass Spin Test in Bangladesh

Cricket Australia and the Australia players put their differences aside following a tumultuous dispute over contracts to ensure the Baggy Greens’ will compete for the Ashes later this year.

The two parties had been involved in a bitter battle of words, with barbs exchanged from both sides. However, the deal has been struck and now Steve Smith can begin preparing his side for the challenge of facing England on home soil in an attempt to win back the urn.

Australia first travel to take on Bangladesh in a two-match Test series; and the Tigers will pose questions of the Baggy Greens, with the team not being the pushovers they once were.

England were troubled by Bangladesh’s spinners in their series on tour last year and the Three Lions were unable to secure a series victory, drawing 1-1 with the home side. As a result, the Aussies will need to be at their best on turning tracks to deliver a confidence-boosting outcome.

Smith’s men are backed in the latest cricket betting odds at 2/5 to triumph, but their success is far from guaranteed given their recent performances in Asia.

Australia have lost on their last three trips to the sub-continent, beginning with their defeat to Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates in 2014.  Few teams have success playing the Green Shirts in the UAE and the Baggy Greens were no different under the leadership of Michael Clarke, suffering two heavy defeats.

Their fortunes did not change under the tenure of Smith last year when the Baggy Greens travelled to Sri Lanka. Australia had won their first three series under the 28-year-old’s captaincy, but they were absolutely hammered by the Lions, failing to cope with the left-arm spin of Rangana Herath.

Herath took 28 wickets to confound the Aussie batsmen, with the smallest margin of defeat for the tourists a 106-run loss in Kandy in the opener, highlighting Sri Lanka’s dominance.

Source: FoxCricketLive via Twitter

The Baggy Greens had a point to prove in India and produced a brilliant performance in the first Test in Pune as Steve O’Keefe guided his side to a 333-run victory, taking 12-70 in the contest.

Nathan Lyon put Virat Kohli’s men well and truly on the back foot by taking 8-50 in the second Test, putting Australia in a match-winning position. However, a second-innings’ collapse caused by Ravichandran Ashwin allowed India to level the series.

From that point, the Baggy Greens were on the back foot but did show resolve to avoid defeat in the third Test. However, Smith’s men were eventually condemned to a series loss in the final Test, falling to an eight-wicket defeat in Dharamsala as Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja loomed large.

Bangladesh don’t quite have the same calibre of bowlers as India, although Mehedi Hasan had England rocking in the second Test in Mirpur, leading to the Tigers’ 108-run triumph. He took 12 wickets in the match for the cost of 159 runs, should Australia fail to adjust to his quality then they could be a world of trouble.

Their batting unit outside of Steve Smith and David Warner lacks experience, especially in turning conditions. Even Warner struggled against the spin in Sri Lanka and India, meaning that the fortunes of the Aussies could once again rest on the shoulders of their captain.

 

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Cricket Opinion

Would India’s 1983 side beat its 2011 counterpart?

India’s 2011 world cup success was the second in the national side’s history. India are currently joint-second with the West Indies in terms of world titles – although the Windies have not won the World Cup since 1979.

While the Indian team of 2011 had no amateurish connotations, as they did when they triumphed in 1983, their second world cup victory was no less impressive, especially when one considers Australia’s dominance over the tournament in the past two decades. Thus, grounds exist for a fair comparison of the two Indian sides.

Naturally, the main difference between the two eras is the presence of a codified Indian Premier League, and the influence of Indian superstars such as Sachin Tendulkar. To gain a truly balanced view as to which title-winning Indian team would prevail, it is important to look at the backstories of each Indian side, from 1983 and 2011, and the challenges faced on their respective paths to glory.

In the first two editions of the World Cup, India failed to progress beyond the group stage. Psychologically, this could have given India a disadvantage in 1983, particularly when one considers that the tournament itself was held on hostile British ground. It was in India’s first game of the tournament, against champions West Indies at Old Trafford, which the world saw an early sign of events to come.

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‘Old Trafford, Lancashire Cricket Club’ – WeLiveCricket via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

For their part, the Windies had never lost a world cup match before their 1983 opening game. In Winston Davis, they also boasted a lethal bowler – who would later dismiss seven Australian batsmen at the cost of just 51 runs. Yashpal Sharma, however, proved his nemesis in the 1983 encounters that stunned the world.

By 2011, India had evolved into a formidable side which was always given short odds by bookmakers such as bet365 ahead of major tournaments. Yet, it was still a side with its doubters, given Australia’s vice-like hold over the game at that time.

In contrast to 1983, though, India’s opening match was a widely expected victory, against Bangladesh. Even with the advantage of home turf in their second match, against England, India endured a disappointing draw. On that occasion, they showed no shades of the 1983 side at all.

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‘Sachin Tendulkar’ – Coolgama via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Twenty-eight years later, the format would involve one extra knockout round to negotiate, meaning that there is argument in favour of the 2011 side in this unique – albeit hypothetical – battle. Yet, once the men in blue had disposed of champions Australia, the psychological gravity of the semi-final (vs Pakistan) and the final (vs Sri Lanka) was much reduced.

With those backstories taken into account, the 1983 Indian side arguably wins this battle. While the 2011 side – with a worldwide media presence and modernised fitness regime – would have an obvious advantage, it is worth remembering that the basic rules of the game have never changed.

As the 1983 tournament showed the world, it is ultimately team spirit and strong leadership that determine the winners and losers in cricket.

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Cricket Opinion

English Players Look to Join Some of the Best in the IPL

After Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni ensured England tasted defeat in the series, some of the players will be looking towards the Indian Premier League (IPL) auction on 4th February and wondering if they’ve done enough to secure a lucrative deal. The IPL season will be the 10th version of money-spinning and well-liked India Twenty20 domestic competition and will commence after the T20 World Cup in India with the same eight teams from the 2016 season competing once again.

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Garden of Eden” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by partha.b

The English are Coming

With the England and Wales Cricket Board (EOB) seemingly giving its blessing for, England’s players are free to join the IPL, but with the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy, a number of One Day Internationals (ODIs) in the Caribbean in March, a series against Ireland in May and three ODIs versus South Africa players might be asked to decrease their value by only making themselves partly available for league action. The EOB will be keen to ensure preparations are perfect as England are currently 7/2 with bet365 to win the ICC Champions Trophy and updates before the big event can be found at http://extra.bet365.com.au/news/en/Cricket.

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BEN STOKES” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by NAPARAZZI

Players such as Ben Stokes, Eoin Morgan and Jason Roy are all apparently keen and Jos Buttler and Sam Billings are already signed up. For the players, it’s a huge prospect to earn more than ever before and gain some valuable experience plying their trade in a cricket crazy country. Although a few players have performed admirably during the current series loss to India, it’s likely that IPL scouts would have already selected their auction targets based on performances over the past year or more. It’s an interesting time for England’s cricketers, whose form has been steady under coach Trevor Bayliss and the possibly departing captain Alastair Cook. A few players will attract interest and the experience of playing against these stars of the IPL should be beneficial to them and England.

Virat Kohli

The first player to reach the 4000-run milestone in the IPL Kohli is committed to ending his career with last years’ runners-up, the Royal Challengers. Often compared to the legendary Sachin Tendulkar he’s an aggressive batsman and can generate great power and shot variety. He’s the elite of the IPL and has a huge following to generate lucrative endorsements media interests.

David Warner

Ended the 2015 season as the highest scorer after he was signed by Sunrisers Hyderabad. The Australian went on to lead his team to their first ever championship last season and he’s a player that does well in all formats of the game. He has an aggressive and assertive left-handed batting technique, that combined with athletic fielding and both off-spin and leg-spin bowling style he’s become a stellar name in the IPL.

AB de Villiers

An influential player for the Delhi Daredevils’ the South African was bought by the Royal Challengers Bangalore at the IPL Player Auction in 2011 and has been crucial to their success ever since. A batsman that can change the course of a match very quickly, he’s had some truly memorable moments in the IPL by manufacturing some outstanding shots while also being good behind the sticks and an acrobatic fielder.

Shikhar Dhawan

A strong partnership with captain Warner saw Dhawan notch up 501 runs in 17 matches and become an IPL winner in 2016 with Sunrisers Hyderbad. His formidable left-handed batting style has made him an intimidating opening batsman and big match player, although he’s possibly best know for his moustache.

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Cricket News

Can England Make Number One Surge in 2017?

England are in danger of dropping to their first series defeat in almost year in India, trailing Virat Kohli’s men 2-0 with just two matches left on the tour. The Three Lions have been a resilient outfit under new coach Trevor Bayliss, losing just one of their series since he took charge in 2015, but their below-par performances in the sub-continent may end their solid record.

(Feature Image “Lords” (CC BY 2.0) by HerryLawford)

Alastair Cook’s side have had major issues coping with excellent spinners in their tours to the United Arab Emirates and India. First Pakistan’s Yasir Shah tormenting their batsmen and now Ravichandran Ashwin has ripped through their batting line-up with relative ease to put his team on the brink of claiming a series win over the Three Lions.

Despite their problems in the sub-continent England’s form elsewhere has been impressive, defeating South Africa on their travels, while they are also current holders of the Ashes. Injuries have hit Cook’s men hard over the past year, leaving them without many of their best players for extended periods, including Ben Stokes and James Anderson, while Stuart Broad has also suffered.

The battling qualities the Three Lions have shown over the 18 months will be need in abundance on their next tour of Australia. Cook’s men were hammered 5-0 in a whitewash defeat to the Baggy Greens on their last visit Down Under. As a result, England are backed in the latest cricket odds at 13/5 to triumph over their great rivals, meaning that there is plenty of work ahead for Bayliss, Cook and the rest of the players to retain the Ashes.

On the bright side for England there is no world-class spinner awaiting them in Australia, while their chief tormentors of the 2013/14 series defeat Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris have both been forced into retirement. The Baggy Greens have problems of their own, highlighted in their series defeats to Sri Lanka and South Africa, while a tough challenge lies ahead against Pakistan.

England host the Proteas and the West Indies next year before their trip Down Under. Should the Three Lions win all those series on the bounce they would have a strong chance of ending the year as the number one ranked side in the world, achieving the feat for the first time since 2011. The only potential obstacle could be keeping their key men fit, which has been the biggest issue Bayliss has encountered since taking over the side.

The Three Lions will play a lot of cricket in 2017 and cultivating depth will be a key factor, although there have been problems keeping a settled 11 on the field. Haseeb Hameed proved his quality even at the young age of 19 that he can be a long-term contributor at the top of the order, although the same could not be said of Ben Duckett, who became the latest name on the carousel to fail to lock down his place in the team, joining James Vince and Gary Ballance to struggle at number four this year.

"England vs Bangladesh" (CC BY 2.0) by p_a_h
England vs Bangladesh” (CC BY 2.0) by p_a_h

In the bowling department Chris Woakes’ emergence in the summer would have been a huge relief for the coaching staff to alleviate the pressure on Broad and Anderson, but beyond him Steven Finn and Jake Ball are yet to prove that they can be consistent performers in the team. England are blessed with one of the strongest talent pools in the world and should they fail to make the grade the production line will continue to churn players out like Hameed this year.

England have a daunting task ahead of them, but the reward could propel them onto greater things in the future, especially if they can continue to bring young talent through.

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Cricket News

BBL06 Season Preview

After the exciting grand final finish at the MCG last season that saw the Sydney Thunder defeat the Melbourne Stars in a final over thriller, all eight sides will be gunning for the crown in this season’s sixth edition of the competition.

One of the best Twenty20 leagues in the world has commanded some of the best players of the shorter-format once again, as Stuart Broad (Hurricanes) Ian Bell and Mitchell Johnson (Scorchers) headline some big signings, while England captain Eoin Morgan (Thunder), Kevin Pietersen (Stars) and Dwayne Bravo (Renegades) return for another stint at their respective clubs.

Both Melbourne sides are favourites for the trophy and are at $6.00 (odds courtesy of CrownBet), and are joined at the top by Perth and the Sydney Thunder, with BBL06 set to be the tightest it’s ever been.

Adelaide Strikers and Sydney Sixers follow the top four sides on $7.50 with the Brisbane Heat closely behind them on $8.00.

The Hobart Hurricanes round out the sides at $9.00, although with so little space between the top and bottom sides any team is a genuine chance to win the competition.

The Sydney derby kicks off the BBL06 season on December 20, as the first round of the season goes over the opening three days, before a Christmas break halts play until Boxing Day.

When play resumes on December 26 the summer of cricket gets into full swing, as a BBL game is played on every day bar three before the season comes to a close on January 21. The final will be played on January 28.

Despite not making the final last season, Adelaide will be looking to pick up from where they left off, after the Strikers won seven of their eight matches during the season to finish clear on top of the table.

The Stars and Scorchers finished equal second with five wins each, while the Thunder surprisingly won the title from fourth after four wins and four losses throughout the season.

With half the sides making the finals and given Sydney’s recent success from fourth, every team will believe they’re a chance to win the title from any finals position, which is set to make the upcoming season the best in BBL history.

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Cricket News

Will Stokes’s injury hurt England’s chances against Pakistan?

The England all-rounder, Ben Stokes, has been ruled out of the third test against Pakistan at Edgbaston. Could his absence upset the balance of the side and tip the scales in the opposition’s favour?

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BEN STOKES – (CC BY-SA 2.0) by NAPARAZZI

Ben Stokes missed England’s first test against Pakistan emerged as victors by 75 runs. The 25-year-old returned to the fold for the second meeting of the two sides at Old Trafford, as England bounced back to level the series at 1-1. The hosts annihilated their opposition, and won by 330 runs. Stokes put in a fairly decent performance with 34 runs and 2 wickets, but it was perhaps his dressing room and on-pitch presence that helped spur the Lions on to victory.

In the stunning victory, Stokes received the crushing blow that his injury woes are far from over. He tore a muscle in his right calf while bowling, and has not been selected for the Edgbaston test that starts on Wednesday. After suffering from knee problems that saw him miss most of the Sri Lankan tour and the first test against Pakistan, the player who has been compared to Andrew Flintoff by some will be desperately hoping he can recover quickly. If he had managed to avoid injury and had the chance to push on properly after his record innings of 258 against South Africa last year, he could have been on the path towards becoming one of the world’s best.

Even in the all-rounder’s absence, England at odds of 4/6 in the cricket betting to win the series at the time of writing. If they fail to win the third test, though, the best they can hope for is a draw, with the odds for that outcome currently at 5/2.

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JOE ROOT – (CC BY-SA 2.0) by NAPARAZZI

The Lions are well favoured for the series after Joe Root’s imperious form shone through in the second test. The Yorkshireman bagged 254 runs in the first innings against Pakistan at Old Trafford, and followed up his career best with 71 not out in the second innings. Certainly, with the 25-year-old fresh from such a huge confidence boost, the Lions will fancy their number 3 batsman can build upon those astonishing hits. The captain, Alastair Cook, is also in fine fettle having scored a century and two fifties so far in the series.

On the back of a solid performance in the second test, England should be able to push on and gain the upper hand in the third. The Lions already have another all-rounder at their disposal in Chris Woakes, who has made an excellent case for his permanent inclusion. The 27-year-old has already picked up 18 wickets and is odds on at 1/16 to be England’s bowler of the series. He hasn’t been quite as convincing with the bat, though, so England may want to play a specialist batsman in Stokes’s place.

There is no doubt that the absence of Stokes is a huge blow for the player and the team, but England have shown how devastating they can be, and can push on to win this series.

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Cricket Betting

Big Bash League Early Favourites

The Big Bash League might still be four months away, but it’s never too early to check out where you can bet on the Big Bash League and see the early favourites.

With several players already having secured deals at new clubs for the upcoming season, excitement is at fever pitch for what is sure to be the most entertaining season yet.

Despite winning the competition last season, the Sydney Thunder are only second favourite to take out this year’s title.

The Thunder are paying $5.50 to win the tournament, while the Melbourne Stars are once again favourites, paying $5.00.

The Renegades and Perth Scorchers are equal third, at $6.00, while the Adelaide Striker are just behind at $6.50.

The Sydney Sixes ($7.00) and Hobart Hurricanes ($7.50) are sixth and seventh respectively, the Heat are being given no chance at the moment, at $10.00.

The Big Bash League is sure to be a huge hit once again, with last season breaking all sorts of incredible records.

The BBL now ranks inside the world’s top 10 most attended leagues.

BBL05 had an average crowd in 2015/16 of 28,498, coming in ninth in the world, which is an outstanding achievement for a relatively new competition.

The eight sports above the Big Bash League on the list are; the NFL (68,278) German Bundesliga (43,331), US College Football Division I FBL (43,288), English Premier League (36,464), AFL (33,428), Indian Premier League (31,750), Major League Baseball (30,517), La Liga (28,498).

Amazingly, Australia has two sports in the top ten, with the AFL having an average attendance of 33,428 per game.

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Cricket News

Australia need strong 2016 campaign to prove Ashes credentials

Australia surrendered the Ashes without a huge fight in the 2015 series as Stuart Broad led England to victory to reclaim the urn.

The Baggy Greens put in weak efforts with the bat at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge allowed Alastair Cook’s men to avenge their whitewash defeat 18 months prior.

However, they are backed at 2/1 in the latest cricket odds to win back the Ashes Down Under next year, although both teams are a long way from being ready for another encounter.

The series defeat in England brought about the end of Michael Clarke’s career as he struggled with a back injury throughout the summer, while Chris Rogers also departed the international arena, leaving huge voids in the line-up.

Steve Smith continued his impressive run of form in the series with centuries at Lord’s and The Oval, but failed to make an impact in bowler-friendly conditions.

He inherited the captaincy from Clarke and the Aussies made a strong start under his reign by overcoming their defeat to England as they brushed aside New Zealand.

Their dominance with the bat proved to be the difference between the teams in a 2-0 victory on home soil as the Baggy Greens just edged out the Black Caps in the first day/night Test match to clinch their win.

The form of Smith and David Warner at the top of the innings proved to be crucial in the victory, while Usman Khawaja and Joe Burns also notched centuries to solidify their place in the line-up.

Adam Voges was the key figure in the following series win over the West Indies with 375 runs in the three matches, most of which came from an unbeaten innings of 269 in the first Test.

Meanwhile, James Pattinson returned to the fold to provide support for Josh Hazlewood in the absence of Mitchell Starc and led the wicket column with 13 strikes.

Australia continued their resurgence under Smith with another comfortable series win in their tour of New Zealand, with Voges again leading the way with the bat, while Burns scored his second Test century.

Hazlewood stepped forward as the leader of the attack and Jackson Bird offered another option on the bowling front with a five-wicket haul to guide the Aussies to victory in Christchurch.

Smith’s men have developed consistency in their batting line-up with all of their players making contributions to their recent Test victories.

However, the runs were made against mediocre attacks and favourable home conditions, leaving with much to prove before they face off against Broad and James Anderson once again in the pressure-cooker environment of the Ashes.

Their series against South Africa later in 2016 will be key to see if they can hold up against the quality of a varied pace attack as Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada will offer a potent threat.

Encouragingly for Smith and the Aussie selectors the team have managed to build a solid stock of pace bowlers, even though injuries have forced them to include players out of necessity.

Starc and Pattinson’s fitness problems could be a cause for concern over the long term as will Pat Cummins, who has also struggled to remain healthy despite his talent.

Hazlewood has risen to the occasion since leaving England after an underwhelming Ashes series, and it will be on him most of all to improve his wicket-taking ability and temperament, given his exploits against the Black Caps.

Elsewhere Bird, Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon all offer solid complements, but the Baggy Greens will need their pacemen to fire to retake the urn back next year.

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Cricket Betting

The stars of Australia’s new era

Australia’s resounding win over the West Indies in game one of the Frank Worrell Trophy has got many pundits tipping this team for big things in 2016.

Such was the verve and flair displayed by a young side who are stepping into some big shoes, there is now talk of the likes of Steven Smith and co. defying the doom-mongers who believe they are too inexperienced to compete with the very best.

CC - hughiethethird
CC – hughiethethird

Bookmakers’ odds on Australia winning the second Test against the West Indies plummeted after their first test victory, with online betting sites like Bet365 offering just 1.08/1 at the time of writing on the Aussies to win, while the West Indies are priced at 26/1.

But who are the key men in the side that is following in the footsteps of Michael Clarke, Shane Watson, Chris Rogers, Ryan Harris, Brad Haddin, and Mitchell Johnson, all of whom recently retired? Let’s take a look.

Steven Smith

Given his stellar reputation on the world stage, it seems hard to believe that Steven Smith is still only 26 years old. Australia’s captain broke into the ICC’s Official Player Rankings for Test batsmen, and is currently ranked fourth behind Joe Root, AB de Villiers and Kane Williamson with a rating of 874. Smith’s average of 80 and high score of 215 not out have made him an indispensable asset to the side. Australia coach Darren Lehmann will hope he can shake off the knee and hip problems that have dogged him in time for the New Year’s action.