Leave out Shane Watson's fruitful run at the top and England become favourites to win the Ashes, writes Lawrence Booth in the Wisden Cricketer. Watson's form, and his alliance with fellow makeshift opener Simon Katich, is working overtime to make up for a middle order that is woefully low on runs.

Since replacing Phil Hughes for the third Ashes Test of 2009, Watson has averaged over 50 as an opener (in seven innings at No 6 he has averaged 24; in six innings at No 7, just 14). He may yet go down as Australia’s best right-handed opener since David Boon. But it is his unlikely alliance with Katich – biffer and nurdler, He-Man and man’s man – that is currently papering over Australia’s batting cracks.

Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo