Free Picks: England vs. Australia at Cardiff Preview

Richard O'Hagan

Thursday, September 12, 2013 8:55 PM GMT

Thursday, Sep. 12, 2013 8:55 PM GMT

The third game of the One Day International contest between England and Australia came to an abrupt halt. Can the visitors seal a series victory on Saturday?

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So far, the only winner in this five game series between England and Australia has been the rain. Nary a ball was bowled in the first game, whilst the third match on Wednesday was washed out when the heavens opened after just 15 overs and one ball. How will this affect our cricket picks going into the 4th ODI?

The rain, of course, can’t win the series. However, in reducing the contest to effectively a three match event, it has done everyone something of a favour. Saturday’s game in Cardiff, which could easily have been a dead rubber after England decided to go into the series with a squad of reserve players, now becomes the match which could win the series for Australia.

Although Wednesday’s game was so horribly truncated, there was plenty to suggest that the Australians could indeed take this series without too much trouble. First of all, there was the sheer complacency of the England team, who went into this game with the same unbalanced side which caused them problems in the second match (which, neither we nor they should forget, they lost by a huge margin).

There then followed more evidence that the England batting line-up just isn’t strong enough to compete with this side. Michael Carberry’s struggles with international cricket continued as he needlessly ran himself out; on the evidence so far, the Hampshire batsman has everything to succeed at this level except the mental strength and he’s looked a liability wherever he has gone.

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Predictably, England never recovered from that early setback and had laboured their way to just 59 when the rain fell. In that time Kevin Pietersen had been royally outfoxed by Mitchell Johnson and Joe Root had chipped a tame catch off Adam Voges.

That England’s number one batsman (in any form of the game) could be outwitted by a bowler who has been the subject of so much derision over the years, and that their brightest young hope could give his wicket away to a player whose bowling is scarcely of professional -let alone international-standard (Voges is primarily a batsman) says so much about England’s mental approach to this series.

To put it bluntly, England don’t care if they win or lose this series. Of the entire squad for this series, only Pietersen and Root will fly to Australia in November for the return Ashes series as assured members of the starting eleven (and there are many who are beginning to doubt if Root should be in that category). Bowlers Steven Finn and James Tredwell might get a trip as potential replacements, but that still means that over two-thirds of this side are merely playing for the sake of playing. And it shows. They know that no matter how well they do, they are not going to play in that Ashes series.

With the Australians, however, pretty much everything is up for grabs. There is a proven history of Test players earning their stripes in the one day side and everyone – from the Test discards such as Johnson to the potential stars of the future like George Bailey and Aaron Finch – has something more than just pride to compete for.

For all of these reasons, you won’t find great odds on Australia winning this game. Across the board, 4/6 is pretty much the price on offer. Drill deeper into the markets, though, and you can get some handy prices on those named above. Bailey is 6/1 with Bet365 to be top Australia batsman in this game, whilst Johnson is 3/1 favourite with Paddy Power to be their top bowler.

England are a best price of 5/4 with Ladbrokes to win, but even that doesn’t look very generous considering their performances to date. At 5/1 with Bet365 stand-in skipper Eoin Morgan looks good value to be their top batsman, whilst Boyd Rankin is 4/1 to be top bowler in most betting markets.

The value sports pick, though, might be for Australia to win the series 2-0. That will require one of the next two games to be washed out, but the forecast is not that great going forward. That result will get you around 4/1 in most markets.

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