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The numbers that suggest England basically have the Ashes in the bag

Stick that in your hotpants, Kylie - here's why England basically have the Ashes in the bag

by Aidan Elder | July 15, 2015

One down and four to go. Despite being given roughly the same chance of victory as a Kerry Katona has of a successful marriage, England dominated the first Test. It may have had a lot to do with Brad Haddin dropping Joe Root on zero in England’s first innings, but with the Australian bowlers looking about as dangerous as a sedated panda, their chances of holding on to the Ashes look about as good as Mitchell Johnson’s haircut.

Despite being the favourites to win the series before a ball was chucked down the legside last Wednesday, the Baggy Greens looked to be in disarray and although it’s a bit early to book a booze-filled open top bus all the way to Downing Street, the history books suggest that as the winners of the 1st Test of the Ashes series, England are in the driving seat to claim a series victory.

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Over the entire history of the Ashes, there is an overwhelming trend towards teams who win the first going on to win the series. That may have been understandable in the early days of hostilities when it took four months, a high risk of scurvy and a girl in every port to get Down Under/Up Over, when the series were usually just two or three Tests, but it has held through to this day of five Test matches.

  • Overall, the team who win the first Test go on to win the Ashes 73% of the time
  • Slightly less than one in four first Test winners conspire to lose the Ashes
  • In the last 30 years, the team winning the first Test have gone on to win 85% of the time

While overall all this paints a picture as pleasant as a jug of Pimms on a lukewarm day for the Barmy Army, but as ever with England, when looking at things in more detail, there is a bit of a pukey whiff  about it. When England have won the first Test, they’ve gone on to win the Ashes 67% of the time, slightly below the overall average for the Ashes history. On the flip side, they’ve won the first Test and lost the series 33% of the time, slightly above the average.

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When we factor the home advantage element, we find that it’s not much of an advantage when it comes to England. When winning the first Test of an Ashes series at home, England have gone on to win the urn 60% of the time and managed to lose it 40%. That’s slightly less encouraging, but it’s also a comparatively small sample size of 10 series (other 1st Tests played at home ended in draws or Australia wins).

So there we have it. Reasons for England to be confident about claiming the Ashes, but then some facts that temper that optimism. If you think Joe Root can keep up his form and the Aussie bowlers will keep chucking it down with all the accuracy of your average Wikipedia page, then you can interpret the numbers as a sure fire sign that England are going to win. If you think the Aussies had a blip in Cardiff and they’ll come back strong, there are some flaws to think England will collapse like Ashley Young when he’s got a sniff of penalty.

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