The Ashes: Second Test Preview and Top Bets

Mitchell Johnson of Australia (Getty)

The Ashes is in a position most followers would not have expected: England leading 1-0 going into the second test at Lord's on Thursday. We preview the match, with our thoughts on the key players and the best bets for this latest chapter of the greatest rivalry in cricket.

Match Preview

Well, that was a bit surprising, wasn't it? England, which looked thoroughly feeble in its last test series against Australia, took the first test in Cardiff with spare change, having looked on-top for all of the four days of play. The feelgood factor in England is palpable after the win, with captain Alastair Cook declaring his side the favourite to win the second test, and all-rounder Ben Stokes, who was part of that squad humiliated 5-0 in Australia in 2013/14, saying how good it felt to get revenge against a squad of mostly the same players.

Why have we seen such a turnaround? It's because of a number of reasons. Australia, so dominant at home, relied on the form and fitness of a number of players who were either absent or out-of-sorts in that first test. Ryan Harris sadly had to retire from cricket after his latest injury, while Brad Haddin, who had some of the best batting figures of the 2013/14 series, looked off-form and uncertain against hostile England fast bowling in Cardiff.

Haddin has been allowed to take time off from the series for what were described as "family reasons", with his state cricket team-mate Peter Nevill, making his debut for any sort of Australia team at the age of 29, donning the wicketkeeper's gloves. Australia will hope that Nevill acquits himself well with the bat as well as the gloves, given the team's problems reaching the desired total at Sophia Gardens last week. Shane Watson, after another cheap dismissal, is dropped for the second test.

England has improved too. Stuart Broad, for his whole career a player who takes wickets in hot streaks, appears to have hit another one, his five wickets proving crucial to England's victory, and showing that there are fewer better bowlers at exploiting English (or Welsh) summer conditions. However, the big surprise was Moeen Ali, about whom there had been much-documented doubts (Adil Rashid was the more popular choice to be the team's specialist spinner), but who took five wickets in a performance that seemed to exude confidence.

Lord's will be a different matter. Australia has plenty of experience in its battle-scarred eleven, and Adam Voges and Chris Rogers will bring home-ground knowledge, gained through playing county cricket for Middlesex at the London ground. The home of cricket and the base of the England and Wales Cricket Board, Lord's has not been kind to England in Ashes series. Since 1934, the only home victories had been in 2009 and 2013. The Australian team will feel history is on its side.

Prediction

This Ashes series is only one match old, there is still a lot of cricket (potentially 20 days) to be played. England will know it needs to regroup and play as if the first test never happened - but Australia, and particularly fast bowler Mitchell Johnson, will view Lord's as a chance to rediscover form. We expect a close game, one which Australia should just edge.

Top Bets

9/2 with Bet365 for Johnson to be top Australia bowler.

5/1 with Betway for Rogers to be top Australia batsman.

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