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Ashes Betting: England odds get shorter every day

Test cricket at its best - all ten fielders surround Monty Panesar in the final over in Auckland

"Clarke has got a near £1.4million contract sat on the table to be the captain of Pune Warriors when the Indian Premier League starts next Wednesday, but won’t be going. After a 4-0 thrashing in the Test series in India that has just gone he knows it is two Ashes series, back to back in 2013, that will define his captaincy."

England proved their mental toughness defying the odds on the final day in Auckland to draw the New Zealand series. Ralph Ellis says it gives even more spice to anticipating this summer's Ashes series...


So Test cricket has no future; the modern generation won't put up with a sport that meanders across five days; and all the money in the Indian Premier League means the best players will drift away from the longer forms of the game.

Not after last night. I watched the first session in the Daily Mail's London office, drove home listening to the afternoon, and got in shortly after tea. Ian Bell was out, Stuart Broad was ducking, weaving and fencing and didn't sound like he'd survive another 10 minutes, and I went to bed believing the money I'd put on laying New Zealand was lost.

So hoorah for Broad, and Matt Prior, and dear old Monty. But most of all, hoorah for Test cricket. As Kevin Pietersen told his Twitter followers:  "This morning proves yet again the value of Test cricket," he wrote. "NOTHING beats it!! Separates the men from the boys."

Now there was a time you'd take that comment from KP with a pinch of salt. Part of why he fell out so badly with England's management and his team mates last summer was his desire to play in the Indian Premier League. But the pendulum is swinging back towards the traditional form of the game.

KP came home from New Zealand with a knee injury that will need six to eight weeks rest and is missing the IPL season for one very good reason - he wants to be sure he is ready for the Ashes in the summer. Meanwhile on the other side of the world Australia's skipper Michael Clarke has also  just announced that he is going to rest up at the end of a disastrous Indian tour because of back and hamstring trouble.

Clarke has got a near £1.4million contract sat on the table to be the captain of Pune Warriors when the Indian Premier League starts next Wednesday, but won't be going. After a 4-0 thrashing in the Test series in India that has just gone he knows it is two Ashes series, back to back in 2013, that will define his captaincy.

At least the Aussies have given Clarke and coach Mickey Arthur their backing after the troubles in India. There had been speculation Down Under that Queensland coach Darren Lehmann was going to be put in charge. But Cricket Australia Chief Executive James Sutherland has given the team management including Arthur and national selector John Inverarity a vote of confidence.

But it still looks bleak for the Aussies. Three weeks ago I recommended backing India at odds-against for the Third Test and lumping on England for the Ashes series even though the price was 1.594/7. It is now 1.491/2 and falling.

For all the mistakes that Alastair Cook made in Auckland, which mainly came down to choosing to bowl after winning the toss, the determination with which Bell, Prior and Broad ultimately saved the game is a sign that the fundamentals of England's team spirit stays strong.

A fit Pietersen alongside the emerging talent of Joe Root in the middle order should strengthen Cook's options for the summer even further. It starts at Trent Bridge on July 10. I can't wait.


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26 March 2013

England Cricket

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