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View From Down Under: Australia the heavy favorite to open Ashes with a win

Australia is the favorite to open its bid to regain the Ashes with a win against England on one of its best performing grounds, Brisbane’s Gabba.

Australia goes into the first Test ranked fifth in the world with England at No. 3 and on the back of the Aussies’ 3-2 series loss in England in 2015.

But it would take a mighty effort from the tourists and a little history to win the series opener, with Australia riding an unbeaten run at the Gabba Ground dating back to 1988.

Australia is paying $1.70 (-143) to start the Ashes campaign with a win, with $3.45 (+245) for England and $5 (+400) for a draw.

With the Australian side due to be named on Friday, opener Matt Renshaw is looking increasingly likely to join David Warner in the middle.

Paceman Mitchell Starc, meanwhile, is in ominous form after taking a hat trick in each inning for New South Wales against Western Australia last week.

The hat-trick double was the first time the feat had ever been achieved in a first-class match in Australia, and the first time by anyone around the world since 1978.

But Starc says he’s just one piece of a formidable pace triumvirate with Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins.

“(Hazlewood) was straight back into his Test form after one over of shield cricket. It’s a credit to him, he’s a bloody genius with line and length. It allows Pat and I and the others to be aggressive and that’s how I bowl,” Starc said this week.

The quicks are expected to pay special attention to Joe Root, but England’s captain refuses to be intimidated.

“I’ve heard a lot of chat about targeting me in particular,” Root said on Tuesday. “From our point of view, we’ll be targeting every single one of them. We won’t be singling anyone out.”

While Australia and England prepare to face each in cricket Down Under, the Wallabies are taking on England at Twickenham.

Australia downed Wales 29-21 in Cardiff last week to open the European leg of its Spring Tour, while England scraped past Argentina.

And while the Wallabies are fast improving on their early season losses to New Zealand, England beat Australia four times in a row last year and is the $1.35 (-286) favorite to win at home on Saturday.

England coach Eddie Jones, a one-time Wallabies coach, said his former side has improved markedly since last year and the $3.20 (+220) on offer for an Australia win will attract plenty of interest.

Back in Australia, Sydney FC can reclaim the A-League lead with a win over the Newcastle Jets on Saturday.

Sydney relinquished its top spot to Newcastle with a 2-0 loss to the Central Coast Mariners last week, while the Jets upset Adelaide 2-1.

Sydney is the $1.60 (-167) favorite to take beat Newcastle at home this week, with the Jets on a tempting $5.25 (+425) and $4 (+300) for a draw.