A SUMMER FULL OF EXPECTATIONS is set to be dashed when the all conquering Australians arrive in England for this summer’s five-match Ashes series. With the Tests due to start next week (8th July) a long summer in the field is forecast before the end of August. That’s not to say that Andrew Strauss’s brave new lions might be galvanised in the same way his introduction in the early summer has transformed England into a different animal as could be seen against New Zealand, but Australia are a different proposition.
Firstly, the Ashes series is over five long Tests and is not a sprint so there are bound to be occasions when one side dominates. I fervently believe this will be Australia as when it comes to imposing one’s will, they have it in spades. In addition they have by far the greater bowling attack, not only in the pace twins of the Mitchells (Starc and Johnson) but in the spinning department which will be integral to this summer’s Ashes. However, their batting line-up is hard to fault, with not only the world’s premier batsman in their line-up in the shape of Steve Smith, but also Michael Clarke, Shane Watson and the unpredictable David Warner, both in play and temperament. England too have a respectable line-up but they are still in transition; the spectre of Kevin Pietersen is still in the background and some new faces are expected to be bloodied.
However, backing Australia for a Series win isn’t going to make you rich overnight and I suggest backing the Series score at 4-1 to AUSTRALIA at a tempting 12/1, whilst hedging on 3-1 at 13/2 (to account for the vagaries of England’s weather). It’s not all about that, so I would suggest an interest on the top series bat of each side and I suggest STEVE SMITH for Australia at 11/4 and ALASTAIR COOK for England at an incredible 3/1. Two £10 singles and a £10 win double pays £227.50. HOWZAT!
Just underway though is that other summer defining event in Wimbledon at SW17. Although you will be reading this column three days into the competition, we will assume that no cataclysmic seed has fallen and therefore here are my tips.
In the mens’ there is no doubt that Nadal is no longer the force he was, whether through injury or age; and on the same basis Roger Federer is also in the twilight of his career when it comes to contesting Grand Slams. Whilst Djokevic is the undisputed premier player, he certainly can be defeated and within his era is not as dominant as Sampras, Bjorg, Becker or McEnroe where you felt they simply would not lose. And there are new boys on the block too, as well as established players to lay claim to this year’s prize.
My two main fancies at respectable prices are STAN THE MAN (Warinka) at 14/1 and, provided he has got rid of the rustiness following his heel injury, MILES RAONIC, the Croat posing as a Canadian (therefore you know he must be good!). He is available at a whopping 25/1.
Similarly in the womens’ you also have the feeling that whilst you can’t sensibly oppose Serena Williams on grass, you also feel that her continual ability to succumb to injury, or hay fever, or stomach cramps or even too many Big Macs leaves her opposable (if you get my drift!). And so who is likely to challenge her?
The likes of the old guard in Sharapova, Kvitova or Ivanovic have had their day and I think that new blood might prove the greatest obstacle to a repeat championship for Serena. I was very impressed with LUCIE SAFAROVA in the French as she seemed to play with a freedom that only youth can portray and she is a top priced double carpet (33/1) for glory. My second pick is grass court specialist SABINE LISICKI who is widely available at 20/1. Obviously like the mens’ this is written before the draw and therefore it would help if any of the four above were in different halves to the number one seed. Anyone for Pimms?