Ashes wicket-taker tips: Damp weather will tame Lyon, leaving door open for Hazlewood

Josh Hazlewood’s nagging accuracy can reap rewards during the Ashes series, says Andy Schooler. He’s previewed the top wicket-taker markets.

The top wicket-taker markets in a Test series always make appeal - weather won't take down your bet here like it might do with the correct score.

And it's that weather issue which has to be considered when looking for value.

Best bets for the Ashes wicket-taker markets

Josh Hazlewood to be top Australia wicket-taker - 11/4

Mark Wood to be top England wicket-taker - 4/1

As explained in my outright series preview, Australia is in the grip of the rather rare La Nina weather pattern which has led to cooler, wetter conditions in recent times. Certainly England have found things rather damp in Brisbane during the build-up to this series.

It has been suggested that La Nina will result in less firm pitches and encourage greater sideways movement and while paying too much attention to the weather is always a risk in cricket betting, Monday's look at the Gabba pitch ahead of the first Test did show a green surface which looks likely to aid the bowlers.

The weather chat ahead of the series is enough to put me off backing spinner Nathan Lyon, who I had initially considered.

He's been a consistent Ashes performer, taking 20, 21 and 16 wickets respectively in the last three series.

Yet those figures have never seen him win top Australian wicket-taker and with the conditions looking likely to see him bowl fewer overs than might have been the case, I can put Lyon to one side at 3/1.

Captaincy will affect Cummins but history cannot tell us how

Pat Cummins bowling in the nets Dec21

Instead the prize looks likely to be won by one of the pace attack with Pat Cummins the favourite.

Rightly so, many will say, given he took most wickets in both the 2017/18 and 2019 series.

But Cummins now has the burden of captaincy on his shoulders and you have to wonder how that will affect him.

For example, there could be a natural inclination to either over-bowl himself or take himself off earlier than someone else would have decided.

It's hard to know what will happen, largely because we don't have too many examples to go off - Cummins is the first fast bowler since 1956 to captain Australia.

Mitchell Starc's left-arm deliveries have caused England plenty of problems over the years but his injury record is a concern and given the schedule which sees five Tests packed into exactly six weeks, there's already talk that he'll be replaced by Jhye Richardson, the second-highest wicket-taker in the ongoing Sheffield Shield competition, at some stage.

Josh Hazlewood Australia bowling Jan21

I'm therefore going to turn to Josh Hazlewood in search of the market winner.

His unerring accuracy was on display during the recent T20 World Cup and history suggests it won't be any different in the red-ball arena.

Expect that to cause England problems - their batsmen were often found playing false shots this summer.

Hazlewood averages a decent 25.7 with the ball - better than Starc but admittedly not as good as Cummins.

However, it's a figure which drops even lower when filtered to Ashes matches, and I think he's the best value in this market at 11/4.

Wood's extra pace makes him the most appealing of the England attack

Mark Wood bowling nets Dec21

The equivalent England market is quite a puzzle to solve.

Which bowler will play all five Tests? Any?

I'm not convinced spinner Jack Leach (6/1) will, especially having seen that Gabba strip.

Given the schedule, it was always doubtful veterans James Anderson and Stuart Broad would play in every game and market-leader Anderson has been left out of the first Test squad, immediately making his price look dodgy.

It would be harsh on Ollie Robinson were he to be left out after an impressive first five Tests of his career in the summer during which he took 28 wickets at less than 20 runs apiece.

But it's also difficult to see England not picking Mark Wood for the pace that no one else in this squad possesses - remember Jofra Archer and Olly Stone are both absent due to injury.

If he plays in Brisbane and is able to get the Aussie batsmen moving in the crease, then he's more likely than anyone to cement his place in the side going into the rest of the series.

For that reason, I'll take a small-stakes chance on the Durham man at 4/1.

Ashes top wicket-taker - market history

2019

Cummins (Aus) 29

Broad (Eng) 23

Archer (Eng) 22

2017/18

Cummins (Aus) 23

Starc (Aus) 22

Hazlewood (Aus) 21

Lyon (Aus) 21

Anderson (Eng) 17

Other series

2015 - Broad (Eng) 21 (Starc 18)

2013/14 - Johnson (Aus) 37 (Broad 21)

2013 - Swann 26 (Eng) (Harris 24)

2010/11 - Anderson 24 (Eng) (Johnson 15)

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