Stan Hey: 6-5 Against

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The Independent Online

It's finally here, the biggest sporting and betting event of the year – the Ashes Test series starts next Wednesday in Cardiff and will dominate the summer. Fans will be hoping for the Wagnerian intensity of England's victory in 2005 rather than the embarrassment of the 2006-07 "Pomwash".

Both teams are almost at the same stage of rebuilding, leaving punters to wonder which has the solider foundations. Australia have new openers, an inexperienced spinner, a solid middle-order and a bowling attack that may be a man short. England have a novice coach and captain, a new No 3 batsman, uncertainty in the middle order – KP's fitness, Paul Collingwood's form – but Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson will be relieved that Andrew Flintoff can take pressure off them, albeit in short bursts. Spin could help too.

In terms of recent form, Australia have the edge, and the bookies (Ladbrokes, Stan James) go 4-5 Australia for the series, with England at 9-4 (Bet365, Boylesports). What they may not have priced in is the patriotic factor. Could you, as an Englishman, really sit through this summer wanting the Aussies to win?

So, £10 on England for the first Test (11-4 Boylesports, 100-30 on Betfair); £10 on the series win; £10 on a 2-1 series score (10-1, Totesport); £5 on Alastair Cook (9-2, Blue Square) and Mike Hussey (5-1, Bet 365) to be top batsmen for their respective sides.

*One losing bet is nothing to what the Lions must have felt after last Saturday's brutal mauling when South Africa exploited a novice referee. But the Lions should feel no shame in losing margins of five points and three points.