Stan Hey: 6-5 Against

Once more unto the crease – for England, at 15-8
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The Independent Online

I know – it always gets wheeled out when national pride is at stake but the St Crispin's Day speech in Henry V is particularly relevant this week: "And gentlemen in England now a-bed, shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here"; the "here" being in front of the telly at midnight next Wednesday for the start of the Ashes. All Englishmen will surely want to watch the first over in Brisbane to banish memories of Steve Harmison's boomerang ball four years ago.

This time, there's every reason for optimism – England's batsmen have been going well, Kevin Pietersen apart, while the bowlers, and their back-ups, are in form.

This can't be said about the Australians, deeply in deficit in international competition this summer against Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and England – watching Eoin Morgan's bewitching century at The Rose Bowl was blissful. With severe doubts about the actual Australian line-up, England must go for the kill at The Gabba and Adelaide, before the Aussies can regroup.

The yellow-dog bookies still have Australia as series favourites – evens being the best price – while England are 15-8 with Stan James.

So, £40 win England; £10 on England to win the series 3-1 (12-1 generally); £10 on 3-2 (16-1 generally). £10 also goes on Jonathan Trott as the top series batsman (10-1 Sportingbet); and £10 on Graeme Swann to be top series bowler, (3-1 Ladbrokes).

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