Ashes 2023: Fourth Test betting odds and talking points
England are slight favourites at 5/4 in the fourth Test betting odds as they look to level the 2023 Ashes series at Old Trafford this week.
Ben Stokes’ men gave themselves a chance of an unlikely comeback with victory at Headingley and will be hoping the momentum is firmly in their camp as they head into another crucial match 2-1 down.
“The Ashes has really captured the public’s imagination in recent weeks, so hopefully England can get the win to take us to a decider,” commented Coral’s Lewis Knowles.
“Punters are struggling to separate the sides, with England marginal favourites as it stands, but with a mixed weather forecast in Manchester on the horizon, the draw could see some support over the next few days.”
Here we look at how the 2023 Ashes series is set and the key issues affecting each side before battle resumes:
Bowling from the James Anderson End…
Anderson has got the nod to return to England’s Ashes line-up on his home ground of Old Trafford.
He took only three wickets in the first two Tests of this series before sitting out at Headingley but his return at his home for his 23-year county career, where he has even emulated fellow Lancashire and England seam bowling great Brian Statham by having an end named after him, was surely inevitable.
His Test record on the ground adds to his case, with 37 wickets at an average of 22.03 in his 10 previous appearances.
That does not include any five-wicket innings, though he took four for 38 – and seven for 54 in the match – against South Africa in 2017 and another four-wicket haul against New Zealand in 2008. Anderson can be backed at 7/1 to claim at least five scalps in the first innings here.
It will be only Anderson’s second Ashes Test at Old Trafford.
The first, a decade ago, saw him toil at the hands of centurion Michael Clarke in the first innings before picking up two wickets in a frantic second innings of declaration batting as Australia tried in vain to beat the rain.
Ollie Robinson’s back spasms during the third Test made him the obvious fall guy, though he has a creditable 10 wickets at 28.40 in the current series and took four for 43 in last year’s Old Trafford win over South Africa.
Stuart Broad has an even better record than Anderson in Old Trafford Tests, with 44 wickets at 19.25 including two six-wicket hauls, and is the leading wicket-taker in this series with 16 at 24.93.
That is one wicket more than Australia captain Pat Cummins while Mitchell Starc has 13. Nathan Lyon (nine) and Josh Hazlewood (eight) follow Robinson on that list, with the next places occupied by two England seamers who only came in at Headingley but quickly cemented their places.
Mark Wood produced astonishing pace to take five for 34 in the first innings and seven in the match while he blazed 24 runs in England’s first innings and 16 in the second to see them over the line along with fellow series debutant Chris Woakes.
The Warwickshire all-rounder took three wickets in each innings and finished unbeaten on 32 as he struck the winning runs. Woakes also has 23 wickets at 18.48 in five Old Trafford Tests, with Wood set to play his first.
Promotion for Moeen
Moeen put his hand up to bat at number three in the second innings at Headingley and though he made just five, the experiment will be repeated.
It solves an England conundrum in Ollie Pope’s absence, with Harry Brook having made just three in the first innings while Joe Root is most comfortable at number four, but this has not been a productive spot for Moeen in Tests.
He has batted everywhere in the top nine in his 66 games but mainly at six, seven or eight. That means some small statistical samples elsewhere but at number three he averages 13.14, consisting of 92 runs in seven innings. A strike rate of 32.39 is also hardly in keeping with England’s aggressive philosophy.
September 2018’s Test against India at the Oval accounts for 70 of his runs at number three, with scores of 50 and 20.
He made nine against them in the previous Test and five in 2016, batting at three for the second innings only on each occasion, and a first-ball duck followed by three against Sri Lanka in Galle in 2018.
He averages 12.75 at number two but taking his six innings as an opener overall, that average of 14 leaves number three as his lowest anywhere in the order.
His best is 51.20 at number four while in his regular positions he averages 21.50 at number six, 33.48 at seven and 25.93 at eight, with an overall Test average of 27.82.
Moeen Ali can be backed at 6/1 to be England’s top scorer in the first innings.
How important was England’s win in the third Test?
After losing narrowly at Edgbaston and Lord’s, it was do or die in Leeds. By getting over the line they stopped the Australian juggernaut in its tracks and kept the intrigue of a gripping series burning.
England have played some compelling cricket but would have found it hard to talk their way out of a 3-0 scoreline that would have ended their hopes of regaining the urn.
Now the country’s cricket fans can enjoy another week of hype and expectation.
Who has the momentum?
Ever since Jonny Bairstow’s controversial stumping on the final day at Lord’s, England have played their cricket with greater edge and steel.
They may not admit it but the controversial incident appeared to awaken an extra level of competitive edge that had yet to surface.
Deep down, the tourists may already be regretting riling up their opponents with an opportunistic dismissal that raised their hackles.
But when it was put to Australia captain Pat Cummins that England may have the elusive ‘momentum’ he rejected the notion, explaining his position in the simplest terms: by reciting the series scoreline.
Bairstow to keep the gloves
England made a tough selection call at the start of the campaign when they axed Ben Foakes, a man they repeatedly trumpeted as the best wicketkeeper in the world, to make room for the returning Bairstow.
The Yorkshireman was the standout player of last year’s ‘Bazball’ bonanza but his return behind the stumps has been troubling.
He has put down seven catches and a stumping so far, with his movement behind the stumps apparently affected by the horror leg-break that forced him out of the game for nine months.
But there is nothing in the mood music to suggest England considered making a U-turn on Foakes and ditch a player with Bairstow’s seniority. It is clearly a gamble but one they seem committed to.
How fit is Ben Stokes?
The England captain is very clearly close to breaking point. He was desperate to play as an all-action all-rounder but has chipped in just 29 overs across six innings and did not bowl at all at Headingley.
Even batting is putting him through the wringer due to his long-standing left knee problem. Watching Stokes grimace, wince and hobble his way through an innings has become par for the course but he has somehow retained his effectiveness and is the second highest run-scorer on either side.
Stokes may well require a long break soon but while the Ashes is alive he is surely going nowhere and he is 5/1 to be England’s top run scorer in the first innings.
What does Old Trafford hold?
First and foremost, England will be hoping for another sporty pitch with enough pace, carry and sideways movement to keep their bowlers interested.
The Lancashire ground staff have typically done a good job of delivering surfaces that fit the bill and the home side rounded up South Africa cheaply twice last summer en route to an innings victory.
But the last Ashes clash in Manchester also offers a possible warning. England were fresh from Stokes’ 2019 miracle when they pitched up in Lancashire and lost by 185 runs, guaranteeing the tourists would retain the urn.
Australia will be eager to recreate their celebrations four years on while England know all too well how it feels to see their surge fall flat.
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All odds and markets correct as of date of publication