England are in the amazing position of being 2-1 up in the Ashes series but yet again they are underdogs going in to the Trent Bridge fixture.
Analysing the performances so far you would say that Australia have looked more threatening at all times and as yet haven’t delivered. Their two pace aces scare the heck out of most batsmen with their bounce, speed and ability to move the ball and for that reason most layers as well. The irony is that everyone believes that Englands best chance of winning is to prepare green bouncy wickets. How can that be right? The funny thing is that in test cricket the saying is bowlers win matches because you have to take 20 wickets to win one. My view is (wicket aside) both sides will take 20 wickets in this test, so there is no advantage, it’s who can accumulate the most runs before that happens – get it?
Surely if the Aussie pace threat is so potent we want flat low wickets dont we? Not so. You have to look not at the bowling but at the batting to find out why this might be true. Englands batsmen arent world beaters, in fact one could argue we are an opening batsmen short as Lyth averages just 13 in this series to date and apart from the last test Bell hadnt made a run in the series. The truth is though we bat deeper and better, man for man on bouncy quick wickets and that is where Clarke comes in to it as the ace.
The Aussie captain recently said that because he wasn’t making runs that the Aussies were playing with 10. Magnanimous as we have come to expect from him but not altogether true. He has a huge influence as Captain and confidence flows through him to his team who are allowed to play their own game because of his surety of place. Finished as a player Captain? Far from it and he will play his role. The big question is, will it be in this test? To me that is what betting in this test is all about. The Clarke Factor. Without his contribution and if the ball swings Australias batting line-up is brittle. Rogers has to work incredibly hard to accumulate runs and he does but it is wearing on him. I dont expect him to succeed in this test. Warner is streaky and if it is a low scoring test his 86 in 65 balls could be a match decider but that’s not test cricket and he is not a test opening bat . Smith will struggle if the ball moves. Only Sobers made that playing back technique work in England and with respect to Sir Gary the old England attack was a lot slower and more wayward than this one, which has been incredibly efficient and disciplined so far, more so than there opposition. That brings us to no 4 – which was Clarke and I expect to be Marsh.(the batsman not the all rounder) – that’s a lot of pressure, as good as he is. Clarke goes to 5, where he averages 60 in test cricket against 20 batting at 4 and then the all rounders who are OK. Does that line-up look flaky to you? Who scares you most? How does ours match up with, Cooke, Bell, Root, Butler, Stokes, Ali. To me they look similar and I edge towards Englands batters more because of experience and form and the most importantly the lack of pressure on them to perform. None of them are fighting for their place and again strangely none are under pressure from the English press. Even Captain Cooke seems to have their support currently, fickle as it is.
All credit to Clarke if he can find the form he so desperately needs at a time when his side simply cant afford to fail. He is an extraordinary player but where is your money on that task? Which team can play with freedom and without fear. Oddly, if it is anyone its England not Australia.
It promises to be an exciting fixture. I hope they don’t ruin it with a boring pitch but I think that will be tough given the weather we have had. So despite Jimmy Anderson not playing – if he was England would be my banker, I am going for England. I think they should be 11/10 both with a big priced draw – so given the prices and all I have written above I have to be with England. I do know of course, as any England supporter does, that if England bat and the Aussie bowlers get it in the right place early doors my bet could be over by lunch on Day 1. Thats the excitement of betting. I wouldn’t have it any other way.