With the 2023 Ashes set to begin at Edgbaston on Friday, we run through our tips for series winner, top batter and top bowler.
Series winner: Draw
This Ashes series looks to be one of the hardest to predict in recent memory, with strong arguments to be made for both sides lifting the urn at the end of July.
England are the most in-form Test side in the world having won 11 of 13 Tests in swashbuckling style since Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes took charge, including seven of eight at home.
The fearless attitude at the heart of the ‘Bazball’ revolution has transformed a squad that was badly lacking confidence into serious contenders to regain the Ashes for the first time since 2015.
However, the hosts are coming up against a side in Australia that can call themselves the best team in the world having just beaten India in the World Test Championship final at The Oval last week.
With the three top-ranked batters in the world, and a bowling attack to rival the very best, Australia will provide by far the biggest test for this new-look England.
These are two evenly-matched teams with contrasting styles, which should make for a very entertaining series. England are just as likely to blow Australia away in one Test as they are to be undone by their attacking instincts in the next.
With so much uncertainty around how the series will pan out, there’s little value in backing either team to win. Instead, backing the series to end a draw – just as it did on Australia’s last tour in 2019 – looks a great price with the English weather bound to interfere at some stage.
Series top bowler: Pat Cummins
With fitness concerns affecting the likelihood of various bowlers on either side playing all five matches, the Australia captain looks the most reliable option in this market.
James Anderson and Ollie Robinson both missed the warm-up Test against Ireland with groin and ankle injuries respectively. Both are expected to return for the first Test, but Anderson – who turns 41 during the series – will need to be managed carefully, as will Mark Wood and Stuart Broad.
For Australia, Josh Hazlewood is available for selection after injury, but faces a fight to get into the side after another impressive showing from Scott Boland in that win over India.
Mitchell Starc isn’t consistent enough in English conditions, while the case for Nathan Lyon is weakened by the fact a spinner hasn’t topped the wickets table in an Ashes series since 2013.
All signs, then, point to Cummins claiming this title for a fourth consecutive Ashes having taken 21 wickets in 2021/22, 29 in 2019 and 23 in 2017/18.
Series top batter: Steve Smith
Realistically, you have three options in this market: Smith, Marnus Labuschagne or Joe Root.
Of course, someone could have a career-defining series and trump them all, but the attacking styles of the other contenders, set against the relentless form of the top three in the market, means that’s unlikely.
Since stepping down as England captain, Root has continued his march to becoming England’s greatest Test batsman with four centuries and five 50s in 13 Tests.
Labuschagne has been even more consistent, compiling 3,251 runs since being introduced as a concussion sub for Smith at Lord’s in 2019.
He has 10 centuries and 14 half-centuries during that time, and tops the ICC Test batting rankings coming into the series.
While Labuschagne has overshadowed him at points, Smith remains the biggest threat to England having scored 774 runs on these shoes in 2019 despite missing the third Test.
He is coming in off the back of his 31st Test century in the World Test Championship final, a knock which increased his average up to a staggering 60.04.
He’s the shortest price, but that form combined with his record in England is impossible to ignore.