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England whitewash on the cards in Ashes series

The wait for the world's greatest Test series is almost over as Australia and England prepare to do battle once again, but there are still more questions than answers ahead of the first game in Brisbane.

England were walloped 5-0 the last time the series was played Down Under in 2013-14 when Ben Stokes hit the tourists' only century and topped the averages at 34.87.

Unfortunately for England, the all-rounder has not travelled on the plane to Australia as police continue their investigations into an incident outside a Bristol nightclub.

England are not a one-man team, but the absence of their vice-captain will be a massive blow to their hopes of retaining the Ashes.

Even with Stokes in the line-up, only Joe Root and Alastair Cook are consistent performers in a thin-looking batting department, with James Vincent, Mark Stoneman, Gary Ballance and Dawid Malan yet to prove themselves at this level.

Australia have injury problems in their bowling department, but Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc should both have recovered from their respective side and foot problems by the time of the Brisbane Test which the hosts look good to win at 8/11.

England last won at the Gabba more than 30 years ago and suffered a crushing 381-run defeat there in the 2013-14 series, so hopes are not high of a morale-boosting victory in the opener, especially on an unfamiliar fast and bouncy pitch.

With England sending out such an inexperienced squad, Australia are worthy favourites to win back the Ashes at 2/5 despite losing 2-1 to South Africa in their last home series.

No-one likes a pessimist, but Australia to win the Ashes 5-0 at 15/2 and 4-0 at 8/1 in case it rains looks the way to go.

Joe Root is comfortably England's best batsman, scoring at an average of 57.5 in the victorious home series of 2015 and did not disgrace himself as a relatively young man in 2013-14 with 27.42.

Root to be England's top scorer at 13/8 appeals, especially in the absence of Stokes.

Australia to win first Test @ 8/11

Australia to win Ashes 5-0 @ 15/2

Australia to win Ashes 4-0 @ 8/1

Joe Root to be England's top scorer @ 13/8

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Warren Barner
@warren_barner in Cricket