Australia to continue to feel at home at Lord's
Australia have won an incredible 14 of the 33 Tests against England at the home of cricket, Lord's. Following the first Test in Cardiff there is no reason to think that England will win their first Ashes Test at HQ since 1934.
The tourists go into the second Test as 8/5 fancies with the draw favourite at 6/5 and a shock England win 3/1.
It would take a patriotic punter to back the 3/1 as quite simply England got away with the draw at Sophia Gardens. Relying on your number 10 and 11, James Anderson and Monty Panesar, to save a Test is certainly chancing your arm.
Ricky Ponting was not best pleased with England's delaying tactics during the final day and a riled Australian is a dangerous thing, especially in the sporting world. The Aussie skipper, after top scoring for the tourists in the first Test, is 3/1 favourite to do so again and make mincemeat of the England attack.
The English bowlers didn't really fire in Wales and changes are expected in the make-up of the attack. It is unlikely that both of the non-turning spin duo of Graeme Swann and Panesar will be retained on the expected seam-friendly pitch at Lord's despite the aforementioned latter's heroics with the bat on the last day.
Swann, himself, was handy with the bat in both of England's innings scoring a quickfire 47 first time around and a more dogged 31 on the final day.
Nottinghamshire man Swann is the more likely candidate to be retained due to his far superior all-round game with the bat and in the field plus, not forgetting, he was in form with the ball in the winter in India and the Caribbean, as well as earlier on in the summer against the West Indies.
He is available at 4/1 to be England's top bowler in the first innings with Monty at 7/1.
A key part of the selection process for the XI will be the fitness of all-rounder Andrew Flintoff. Freddie affects the balance of the side more than anything else in addition to having a psychological effect on the opposing batsmen which is far greater than his statistics warrant.
The Lancastrian has taken just 69 wickets at 34.68 runs apiece in 29 Tests since the end of the 2005 Ashes series. During this period he has not taken one five-wicket haul.
The vibes coming from the England camp seem positive regarding Flintoff's fitness and his ability to be ready for Lord's.
Nevertheless Australia would be boosted if facing a Flintoff-less attack.
As a result of the concern over the big man's fitness Steve Harmison has yet again be recalled to the Test squad. It seems it doesn't matter how many times the Durham paceman lets England down, the selectors always find themselves going back to him.
There is no doubting Harmison's raw attributes to be a devastating fast bowler in the Test arena but time and time again he has lacked the consistency to build pressure from his end, let alone take wickets.
Yes he has been in form for Durham taking 33 wickets at an average of 13.03 in five first-class matches since the beginning of June. But more often than not the north-east native has wilted on the big stage in recent times, although he did have match figures of 6 for 135 when he turned out for the England Lions against the tourists.
The other options, based on the 14-man squad, would be for the selectors to choose Harmison's Durham team-mate Graham Onions or add an extra batsman in Ian Bell.
England's best chance of success is to go in with a five-man attack and presuming Freddie is fit, despite the criticisms there is not another realistic option than to hope for the best and give Harmy yet another recall, in the blind faith that he can transfer his Durham form with him to Lord's.
It is a damning indictment of the England side that Harmison is the choice again but it appears the selectors are left with little alternative.
The Durham man can be backed at 7/2 to take the most wickets for England in the first innings but this looks too short. James Anderson is the favourite at 5/2 and he is a worthy market leader but there isn't much to get too excited about in the bowling ranks.
In the batting - Kevin Pietersen top scored in the first innings of the first Test and England's over reliance on him continues so the 10/3 for him to top score in the first innings has to be backed over any of the alternatives.
The same old problems haunted England in the first innings in Cardiff as most of the line-up got starts before getting out. It is this failure that often costs the Three Lions as they are unable to turn the 30s into 50s, the 50s into 100s and the 100s into 150s. As a result the batsmen rarely post an intimidating total to put pressure on the opposition and thus help out the bowlers.
Once again William Hill are offering even money on both England and Australia to win the toss. There is nothing in it for us, we just want to know who you think is the luckier man? Strauss won the toss in Cardiff, can he do so again at the home of cricket?
The action gets underway at Lord's on Thursday morning and William Hill have more betting markets than ever for you to get stuck into including over-by over in-play markets to keep you involved in the action throughout the five days.