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It was so nearly the weekend that Chris Rogers became an Australian national hero. The oldest man in the Aussie side scored a tremendous debut hundred and then shared in a scintillating opening stand with David Warner in the second innings as Australia looked sure to win the game with a day to spare. Not a bad effort for a man who once described himself as a ‘short-sighted, color blind, ginger nuisance’.
Unfortunately, his efforts pagroved to be in vain. First of all, an even more magnificent ginger, Ian Bell, made his third hundred of the series, and then Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann saw England to a lead of 298. Australia -Rogers and Warner to the fore- blasted their way to 109 without loss, only for Stuart Broad to lead England to victory with a six wicket haul to go with his five from the first innings.
You might think, therefore, that there is nothing left worth betting on in this series, but you would be wrong. First of all, there’s the final game at the Oval to play, starting on August 21st. There’s every reason to suspect that the Australians could win that game. It is still the ground which plays closest to Australian conditions, both in terms of playing area -as it is the largest ground in England- and in terms of the pitch itself (although nowadays, it is more dusty and turning like Sydney, and less like the fast and bouncy Perth-like track that it once was).
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Then you have to look at how far the Australians have pushed England in the last two games. Arguably, they should’ve won this one. Definitely, they would’ve won in Manchester had the rain not intervened. Seamer Ryan Harris has bowled so well in English conditions that he must be cursing his mother for being in the wrong country when he was born. Spinner Nathan Lyon, when he was finally given his chance, has been the equal of Swann. In Rogers and Warner they finally look to have an opening partnership worthy of the name. Captain Michael Clarke remains a world class batsman. There’s a lot to love about this Australian side.
Add to that the fact that England have some problems in key areas. Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott are both badly out of form. The Australians have successfully exposed glaring technical deficiencies in the young Yorkshire pair of Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow (Root has struggled so badly since being moved up the order to open that the man he replaced, Nick Compton, must be wondering what on earth he did wrong). Also, wicketkeeper Matt Prior, lauded as the best in the world before the series began, has made almost no runs (including being out first ball at Durham) and has lost form behind the stumps, to the point where he missed the run out chance that could have ended the game ten minutes before it did. Swann, normally the safest hands in the side, dropped three slip catched in Durham and even attack leader James Anderson looks out of sorts. England might have won, but the Australians have the edge on form.
Then you can factor in that, statistically, if a team wins a series before the final game, there is a tendency for them to lose that ‘dead’ rubber. Australia themselves were notorious for doing so in the 1990s and early 2000s.
In short, everything points to an Australian win at The Oval, yet you can get 5/2 on that result at William Hill. That would make the series score 3/1 to England, which Betfair will give you 3/1 of your own on. That sounds like a very nice double indeed, for your cricket picks.
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