Ashes Down Under: Jonny Bairstow, Steven Finn 'likely starters' - Bookies
Jonny Bairstow and Steven Finn are likely Ashes starters, if the bookmakers are to be believed.
By Andy Schooler
Last Updated: 23/10/13 2:48pm
As England prepare to depart for Australia - they fly out on Wednesday evening - there is much debate about who will play in the first Test in Brisbane which starts on November 21.
To coincide with the start of the tour, Sky Bet have priced up who will play in that clash at the Gabba but they feel only two places in the side are really up for grabs - the number six batsman and the third pace bowler.
If the firm's traders are correct, the England line-up in the match will be: Cook, Root, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Bairstow, Prior, Broad, Swann, Anderson, Finn.
The Leeds-based bookmaker makes Bairstow an 8/15 shot to play in the match. He featured in four of the five Ashes Tests in England in the summer, although he did lose his place when the hosts opted to play five bowlers in the final game at The Oval.
Having averaged just 29, the Yorkshire star's place could be under threat and the odds reflect that.
His county team-mate Gary Ballance, yet to play Test cricket, is just 5/4 to make his debut in Brisbane.
As for the bowling slot, Finn, who played in only one Test of the summer series, leads the race at present according to Sky Bet.
Like Bairstow, he's 8/15 to play in the first Test, with Chris Tremlett and Boyd Rankin both priced up as 9/4 chances. Tim Bresnan, the third seamer for much of the summer, is injured.
Tremlett impressed on England's last tour of Australia, but has featured little for his country of late, while Rankin appears in favour with the selectors having played in limited-overs cricket at the back end of the season.
England could opt to play two spinners but with Monty Panesar chalked up at 11/2, that would appear unlikely.
Prices are also available on players not to play in the match.
Sky Bet trader Damon Blezard said: "We feel nine of the spots are nailed down, injury permitting.
"At six, Jonny Bairstow played most of the last series but could be vulnerable to new call-up Gary Ballance. It will be interesting to see how they perform in the warm-up games over the next month.
"In the bowling department competition is healthy with three tall pacemen all vying for one spot as far as we are concerned. Steven Finn seems most likely to play in Brisbane but either Rankin or Tremlett, who performed well in Australia last time England were there, could usurp him."
England play three warm-up games prior to next month's opening Test, the first of which is against Western Australia starting on October 31.
England are currently evens to win the five-match series, with Australia 13/8 to avenge their 3-0 defeat of just a few months ago.
A drawn series, which would see England retain the Ashes, is a 9/2 shot with Sky Bet.
As for the first Test, England are slight favourites at 11/8 at present. Australia are 7/4 shots, while the draw can be backed at 5/2.