Cricket is an unusual sport. The way that the global game is set up is unlike most others. For example, in soccer or rugby you could, theoretically, have the best team in the world taking on the side which is, statistically, the weakest. In cricket, however, sides are effectively streamed according to ability, meaning that only the best ten teams in the world can play Test cricket. Even then, there can be a vast gulf in ability, which in itself can lead to some interesting options for our sports picks.
West Indies v Zimbabwe
One of the nice things about a Test match lasting up to five days is that you can pick up on it at pretty much any point and still find an interesting bet or two. Zimbabwe are ranked a long way tenth of those top ten sides and they somehow contrived to lose the opening game of this series in less than three days. Their big problem there was an inability to play spin, and things are only going to get worse on that front in Barbados where, in the last Test played there, 26 of the 40 wickets fell to spinners.
West Indies' Marlon Samuels turned in his best bowling figures ever in the last match, despite not being a front line spinner. Back him at betting odds of 10/1 with Stan James to be the top West Indies bowler.
India v Australia
Australia are a team in disarray. At 3-0 down they face a series whitewash in this, the final match of the contest for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Moreover, after being reduced to twelve fit and eligible players for that game (after the farcical decision to suspend four players for not completing an assigned task), they now go into this match without injured bowler Mitchell Starc – who top scored in the last game despite batting at number nine – and possibly captain Michael Clarke, who suffered a recurrence of an old back problem.
On the plus side, the four banned players are available for selection again, including vice-captain Shane Watson. He will replace Clarke if need be, but with Philip Hughes having finally made some runs and spud-faced toddler Steven Smith scoring 92 on his return to the side it is likely he will miss out if Clarke is fit. The battle to replace Starc rests between Mitchell Johnson and James Pattinson, with the latter more likely to play.
India have a selection problem of their own. Shikar Dhawan, the debutant who broke the record for fastest hundred on debut in the last game, broke a finger in the field and is out. India called up veteran opener Gautam Gambhir to replace him, only for the player to be diagnosed with jaundice. Suresh Raina is therefore the third choice, but Ajinkya Rahane is now the more likely to open.
India are odds on to win this one, but there's a reason why whitewashes are rare between Test nations. Australia showed some fight in the last game and whilst they still don't look good enough to win a match, at 5/2 with Stan James the draw looks a good tip.
Sri Lanka v Bangladesh
The Sri Lankans won the Test series between these two teams comfortably, but the gap between them in the one day arena is much smaller. The hosts are strong favourites, but there are always good odds to be had on a Bangladesh win in these games and they pay off more often that you expect. They're at 3/1 with Betfair at the moment.
South Africa v Pakistan
The games in this one day series have been rather one sided. The visitors were easy winners in the second contest, whilst the Proteas were comfortable in the other two games, winning the latest despite a blistering, 45-ball, 88 from former Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi. We originally liked the idea of a 4-1 South Africa win, but after these two games the safer tip is a 3-2 victory, which is 6/5 in most markets. However, it might be wise to look to hedge this with a 3-2 Pakistan win, which is a best price of 7/1 with Sportingbet.
Also check out our preview of the 3rd Test between New Zealand and England.