Troubled Australians still provide a major threat in the Ashes

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Discipline problems in the camp, a change of coach just a fortnight before the first ball is bowled and questions marks over the form, both of certain individuals and the team as a whole – it’s fair to say Australia’s Ashes preparations have been far from ideal.

However, all of the problems in the world wouldn’t make the Baggy Greens anything less than ultra-competitive against the ‘poms’ and they will still be a major threat across all five Test matches, especially as the early signs indicate that the tourists are responding to the leadership of new coach Darren Lehmann.

Nevertheless, England are still strong favourites to retain the urn, rating them at 2/5 to overcome the Aussies, BetVictor’s 9/2 outsiders, while bet365 post 13/2 against the series finishing all-square.

Some pundits have been getting ahead of themselves slightly and suggesting a whitewash is a possibility for Alistair Cook’s side but Paddy Power’s 14/1 for a 5-0 home triumph is a touch ambitious given the fact that England have one or two problems of their own to contend with.

Consider also that the weather on these shores will inevitably play a role at some stage and it seems unlikely that there will be a result in all five clashes, something the bookies acknowledge by making a 3-1 success for England the 6/1 (Skybet) favourite in the correct score betting. A closer 2-1 victory though, is arguably slightly more appealing at 8/1 courtesy of BetVictor.

The hosts’ skipper Cook is a worthy market leader at 3/1 via Stan James to top score for his team with the bat despite bet365’s 7/2 chance, Kevin Pietersen’s return to the side and where the Australians are concerned, bookies can’t see further than Michael Clarke, priced by William Hill at 15/8 to be the tourists chief run-accumulator.

Ladbrokes mark 2/1 against James Anderson racking up the most wickets for England. Graeme Swann is rated at 3/1 by BetVictor. Stan James meanwhile, offer an enticing 5/2 about James Pattinson removing the most opposition batsmen for the Baggy Greens.

Finally, in the first Test, which gets under way on Wednesday, England are a shade of odds-on at 17/20 with Betway to take a 1-0 lead. Bet365 make Australia 7/2 and Ladbrokes quote the draw at 5/2 but although the hosts have to be favoured, punters might be well advised to wait for a weather update before committing to a wager.

After another nail-biting affair, one that went the way of the hosts on this occasion, everything is riding on the final Test match between Australia and the Lions in Sydney.

The tourists will have to do without skipper Sam Warburton, who injured a hamstring in Melbourne last Saturday but with the opening two matches having been so close, bookies are struggling to separate the two sides ahead of the decider.

Stan James, for example, go even money the pair, however, after last weekend’s series-levelling, 16-15 win the Aussies have their tails up and the momentum could be on their side at the ANZ Stadium.

BetVictor make Robbie Deans’ men 7/4 to be in front at the end of each half and the same firm chalk dangerous winger Israel Folau up at 10/1 to cross the whitewash for the game’s first try.

For punters unable to pick a winner, meanwhile, Ladbrokes quote odds of 5/6 for the mouth-watering contest to produce fewer than 39 points.

Nico Rosberg’s victory in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone was the Mercedes driver’s second win in three races following his Monaco success and the German would dearly love to make it three out of four in his home race at the Nurburgring.

The 28-year-old, however, is as high as 7/1 (bet365) to rack up another triumph while compatriot and Driver’s Championship leader Sebastian Vettel heads the betting at 15/8 courtesy of Stan James having led for much of the British GP until gearbox trouble put paid to his race.

Lewis Hamilton (4/1, BetVictor) was leading in the early stages last weekend until a puncture hampered his progress but he’s good value at 15/8 with Ladbrokes to claim another pole position and Stan James’s 4/5 about him securing a podium finish catches the eye.

Finally, in boxing, David Price looks to get his career back on track by avenging his only defeat, against Tony Thompson, at Liverpool’s Echo Arena on Saturday.

The veteran American stunned the quietly spoken Scouser by stopping him in the second round back in February but Price is just 2/7 at bet365 to get his own back and 2/5 (Paddy Power) to do so inside the distance.

Bet of the week: Alistair Cook to be top England batsman – 3/1 (Stan James).

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