The Ashes Fourth Test at Old Trafford Preview

The Ashes Fourth Test Preview - England v Australia at Old Trafford

All eyes will be on Ben Stokes when England and Australia head out at Old Trafford to do battle this week. The all-rounder delivered one of the greatest performances of all time to inspire his side to the unlikeliest of victories at Headingley last weekend. It levelled a pulsating Ashes series at 1-1 and the hosts could require more heroism from the great man if they are to prevail again. Australia will welcome star player Steve Smith back from injury for the match and he will be desperate to help his team retain the urn, so it should develop into another exhilarating, high-stakes clash.

Stokes' Heroics With The Bat Smash England Level in The Series - The Story of the Third Test at Headingley

Australia looked all but certain to seize a crucial victory when they bowled England out for just 67 on the second day at Headingley. It was an abysmal performance from England’s batsmen, as Joe Denly top scored with 12 and no other player hit double figures. Australia had already managed 179, thanks largely to a knock of 74 from Marnus Labuschagne, so they headed into the second innings with a lead of 112.

Despite missing Smith, who suffered concussion after being hit in the head by a Jofra Archer bouncer in the second Test at Lord’s, they still hit 246 in the second innings. Once again Labuschagne, Smith’s replacement, led the way as he provided 80 runs off 187 balls. Stokes did all he could to singlehandedly contain Australia’s lead, as he bowled uninterrupted for 15 overs up the hill at the Football Stadium end on the Friday, and then for another nine straight overs on Saturday morning, taking two wickets. It gave the hosts the faintest of chances, but they were set a record chase of 359 and few gave them a hope of reaching it.

It began in disastrous fashion, as England were quickly reduced to 15-2. Root and Joe Denly then provided some hope and stability with a partnership of 126 on the Saturday, but Denly was removed at the death and Stokes entered the fray. He faced 50 balls and offered a defensive masterclass to close out the day on 2, alongside Root, but England still had to chase 203, which looked insurmountable. One by one, Stokes’ partners fell by the wayside on the final day, but he kept his cool while those around him crumbled. At one stage, he was 3 not out from 73 balls, but when England needed him most he switched from defensive to all-out assault.

Stuart Broad was removed at 3.20pm and Stokes’ last partner, Jack Leach trotted onto the pitch. By this point, Stokes was on 61 runs and England needed 73 to win. Defeat was almost inevitable and the Ashes were sure to be returning to Australia. What happened next will be spoken of in reverential tones for decades to come. He defied immense pressure and took the Australian attack apart with a remarkable exhibition of confident hitting. An hour later, Stokes smashed a four off Cummins, raised his tattooed arms aloft and roared in ecstasy as he (and England) won the test.

He had vanquished the visitors with 11 fours and nine sixes, kept the Ashes alive and surpassed Sir Ian Botham’s heroics of 1981. Leach managed just one run in that final hour, but credit to him for hanging in there and allowing Stokes to work his magic. “I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything better than that on a Test ground,” said Ricky Ponting. Geoffrey Boycott said it was the best cricketing moment in 50 years. It was spine-tingling stuff and we will probably never see anything so incredible again.

Can England Take The Lead at Old Trafford?

England will certainly carry all the momentum into the fourth Test after Stokes’ heroics at Headingley. It evoked memories of the great 2005 Ashes series, when Australia won the opening Test comfortably and then found themselves pegged back by an emerging wunderkind in the second. Back then it was Kevin Pietersen doing the damage, whilst in 2019 it was Archer, who filled in for the missing James Anderson with aplomb.

Back in 2005, Australia were undone by a brilliant performance from an all-rounder in the third Test – Andrew Flintoff ripped them apart – and they never really recovered. They might be feeling rather despondent now, particularly after poor fielding and wasted reviews cost them so dearly at Headingley.

Yet the Aussies should not be too dejected as they contemplate another showdown with a fragile England batting line-up. Root’s men fell apart like a house of cards in that 67 all out innings, and the visitors can hurt them again. England are the narrow favourites to win the Test, priced at 11/8, while Australia are priced at 13/8. That shows just how close our traders expect it to be. The Ashes spread betting markets give England a Win Index of 11.75-13.25, compared to 10.75-12.25 for Australia, and this match could be decided by another piece of individual brilliance, as the teams look evenly matched right now.

England v Australia, Ashes Fourth Test - Team News

Australia will receive a huge boost when Smith returns to terrorise the English once again in this match. He was virtually unplayable in the first Test, as he hit 144 and then 142 to lead his team to an emphatic victory. He looked equally devastating at Lord’s, as he was 92 not out before that bouncer from Archer left him concussed. England have brought in Leach for Moeen Ali in a bid to counter Smith’s threat, and they will need a big performance from Archer if they are to triumph.

The big news for England is that Anderson, their all-time leading wicket taker, is out for the series. He went down with a calf injury in the opening Test, and that contributed to England’s heavy defeat, as they were left playing with 10 men. Anderson will play no further part in the series and that will heap a great deal of pressure on Archer’s shoulders. Jason Roy has struggled when opening, and he is expected to swap with Denly to provide more stability in the top order.

How Have The Ashes Betting Markets Moved Across The Series?

Stokes is understandably among the biggest movers in the spread betting markets on this gripping Ashes series. Our traders predicted he would score 310-330 runs during the series before it began, and that dropped to just 278-298 after an underwhelming first Test. He then hit 115 not out to drag his side back into contention in the second innings at Lord’s, and that saw his predicted series runs go up to 365-380. After his heroics at Headingley, where he finished 135 not out, he is now given a series runs spread of 457-467. Stokes is already on 327 runs for the series and anyone who bought on the Headingley hero before The Ashes began will be optimistic of sizeable profit with two tests still remaining.

Heading in the opposite direction is Australia’s David Warner. He was on fire during the World Cup and we opened with a quote of 420-440 runs for the series. Yet he has managed just 79 runs across three Tests, and our current spread is now considerably lower at just 237-247. “The punters very much saw this coming and it’s a big losing market for us, with a flurry of sellers (On Warner’s series runs) before the first ball of the series was bowled,” said our man on the trading floor.

Punters have also cashed in by opposing Root. We opened up with a spread of 470-490 on the England captain’s series runs, which was actually higher than the irrepressible Smith. However, despite his battling innings in the third Test, Root has only scored 176 across the three Tests so far. “It is very fair to say that this one was predicted by our punters as it’s currently our biggest losing player market for the series,” said our deflated-looking trader.

Do you think you can outfox our trading team ahead of the Fourth Test? Check out all the latest cricket spread betting markets and Ashes odds at Sporting Index.

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