The Third Test of the 2013 Ashes begins in Manchester on Thursday. The Australians must win this to have any chance of regaining the Ashes, but rain could be the eventual victor. Lets examine the betting odds for the Third Test and decide where the best sports betting value lies.
Australia warmed up for their must-win encounter with England by playing out a tame draw with Sussex. If anything, it muddied their already confused thinking, with two of the batsmen who were at risk of being dropped for Old Trafford, Steve Smith and Philip Hughes, making big scores and one who probably wasn’t in the frame at all, Ed Cowan, also making fifty in each innings. At the other extreme Matthew Wade, the reserve wicketkeeper who was in line to play as a specialist batsman in Manchester, batted and kept poorly, whilst the only bowler to impress was the one least likely to play in the next game, Jackson Bird.
Meanwhile, a two hour time difference away, the bad boy of Australian cricket, David Warner, was staking his claim for a recall to the Test side by making 193 and 33 in an ‘A’ international against South Africa. That’s an impressive score, but to put it into perspective the game was played on a pitch so benign that South Africa’s Dean Elgar made 268, Thami Tsolekile 158 and even Australian reject Glenn Maxwell an unbeaten 155. In total 1342 runs were scored in the four days, with just 18 wickets falling. Leg spinner Fawad Ahmed, the man whose Australian citizenship was fast-tracked to make him eligible to play in the Ashes, ended up bowling in just one innings and taking 3-177.
If anything, Australia’s selection situation has become worse since the Lord’s game ended eight days ago. The only player definitely ruled out is James Pattinson, whose stress fracture will cause him to miss the rest of the series. Shane Watson missed the Sussex game to train in London, but it seems inconceivable that Australia could win this game with him opening the batting. That could pave the way for Warner to come back into the side, but with Hughes and Smith coming into some form and Usman Khawaja looking like their best batsman in the last game, it is hard to see how Watson, who began the year as vice-captain, stays in the side if that happens.
England’s problems, on the other hand, have been limited to concerns over Kevin Pietersen’s fitness. If the calf injury which he picked up in the last game fails to respond to treatment then James Taylor, the Nottinghamshire batsman who played two Tests against South Africa last year, will step in. Taylor played as a guest for Sussex against the Australians and scored a hundred, so will fancy his chances if called upon. England will be in two minds, because they will not want to risk Pietersen breaking down again, but adding Taylor to Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow will leave a very inexperienced (and very short!) batting lineup.
The England cricket squad should have shuffled their bowlers, sending Steven Finn and Graham Onions back to county cricket and instead calling up Chris Tremlett and Monty Panesar. The Australians won’t be keen to see Tremlett again after he took 17 wickets in just three matches in the last Ashes before falling victim to another one of the injuries that have dogged his career, but in truth both players are in the squad as injury cover only, whilst Finn and Onions need the playing time after one and two games on the sidelines respectively. England won’t change this side unless injury forces them to.
England have been so dominant in this series that the best price you will get on them winning this game is a meager 11/13 at 888.com. Australia are best priced 12/5 with Sportingbet. However, the real winner looks like being the weather. Manchester is a notoriously damp town anyway and from their point of view the end of the English summer has arrived just at the wrong moment, with heavy rain forecast for at least three of the five days. The draw is currently 9/2 in most markets and, sadly, that looks like the likeliest outcome and the best options for our sports picks in this game.