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Stuart Dalgleish 6th Jul 2009 - 12:12

Johnson to Lee-d from the front as Brett suffers rib injury

Australia have been dealt a huge blow ahead of the 1st Ashes Test with the news that Brett Lee was forced to sit out training with a sore rib.

It has now been revealed that Lee will miss the first two Tests with a left side strain.

This is devastating news for Ricky Ponting's men as the fast-bowler had been in fantastic form in the most recent warm up game against England Lions, taking 7 for 114 over two innings. The captain will now choose between Nathan Hauritz and Ben Hilfenhaus for his final bowling option.

The Aussies odds for the 1st Test have lengthened as a result of Lee's absence from the team, you can now back the tourists at odds of 7/4 - out from 13/8. The draw still remains favourite in the betting at 6/4, while Andrew Strauss' team have shortened slightly from 9/4 to 2/1.

This makes Mitchell Johnson the outstanding choice to be top 1st Test bowler for the Aussies at odds of 9/4.

The left-handed bowler might not have been the most economic in the game against the Lions but few would doubt his credentials as one of the top allrounders in the game. His awesome displays in South Africa got him 16 wickets in three Tests at 25.00 runs per wicket, while he was averaging 85.00 with the bat thanks mainly to an unbeaten knock of 123 in the final Test.

England have got any number of candidates to be top wicket-taker in the 1st Test. James Anderson (5/2) leads the betting after his 5 for 34 in the warm up match against Warwickshire, Stuart Broad (7/2) and Andrew Flintoff (3/1) will be the other players in the Three Lions pace attack.

Alastair Cook and Ravi Bopara both scored centuries in the game against Warwickshire and have looked in great nick in the last year. Cook (9/2 to be top England run scorer in the 1st Test) has been averaging over 50 with the bat in his last 13 Test matches, Bopara (also 9/2) is averaging just under 50 so far in his short Test career but will be looking to match Cook's recent average by the end of the summer.

Outstanding captain Ricky Ponting (7/2 to be top Australian 1st Test batsman) will no doubt carry most of the burden regards getting the tourists heavy totals on the board. One player who might have his backers though is Marcus North, the Hampshire batsman scored a century on debut against South Africa and then very nearly made a double ton against the Lions. At 7/1 he could be a great shout for the top Australian 1st Test batsman - if he gets selected of course!

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