England v India Series Betting: India a terrific bet with spin to the fore

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Ed Hawkins argues that although Rashid and Moeen are the right picks, they still have a job hanging onto the coattails of Ahswin and Jadeja in the five-Test series.

"Against India’s masterful batting line-up, who play with spin bowlers like a cat does a cotton reel, you need all the experience you can get your hands on"

England's selectors have incurred the wrath of county diehards for their decision to pick Adil Rashid, who effectively retired from red-ball cricket at the start of the season, in the squad for the first Test against India.

It is unprincipled, disrespectful and short-sighted. But it does mean England have a better chance of beating India this summer. They have categorically put victory above pretty much everything else. And in this corner of cricket commentary, that's all folks are interested in.

It's pretty simple. Are England a better bet with Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali, who have 271 international appearances between them, or Jack Leach and Dom Bess, who have three, as their spin threats?

A no brainer, isn't it? And the comparison could be illustrated in many ways from wickets to first-class appearances. Leach and Bess have only 38 of the latter between them. Against India's masterful batting line-up, who play with spin bowlers like a cat does a cotton reel, you need all the experience you can get your hands on.

Of course it is distasteful that Ed Smith, England's head selector honcho, and his cohorts have treated the foundation of their sport in this country with such disdain. Rashid rejected the opportunity to play in the County Championship for Yorkshire this season, instead focussing on his white-ball skills.

To pick him sends a peculiar message to those busting their gut week in and week out trying to force the hand and catch the eye of Smith and his colleagues. What next? A spot for Alex Hales, who declined the chance to turn out for Nottinghamshire in the Championship?

The more intuitive criticism should perhaps focus on England's long-term strategy. At the start of the summer Leach was the man in possession. When he was injured, Bess was promoted. We said at the time that it was a pick which would only make sense if England held courage in their conviction. That Bess was to be given a year or more in the team to really establish himself.

England, it seemed, were playing the long game. They recognised that maybe they would have to take a couple of defeats at home if they were to develop spin bowlers who could win them matches away from home. Nothing wrong with that.

But those 'plans' have emphatically been torn up, largely because England fear a beating here. India have a good chance of an upset in this series because of how the heatwave that has baked pitches up and down the country. For Birmingham or Lord's, read Chennai or Nagpur.

It would be a surprise if spin was not the decisive factor in this five-match contest. This is most unusual in England where England can ordinarily rely on the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad to swing and seam their way to victory. Particularly against batsmen from the Asian sub-continent who are uneducated in the subtle art.

Wickets, though, should be turning from day one and as Tests progress spinners will come more into play. Dusty, cracking and crumbling surfaces on days four and five will delight the likes of Ravi Ashwin and Ravi Jadeja and Rashid and Moeen. Indeed, we expect that the victor will be the one who manages to bat first most often.

The value is with India

There's the rub when it comes to deciding where to put your money. It would perhaps be pushing things to suggest it's a fifty-fifty call in that regard but when it comes to deciphering the value it is clear that India are the bet at [3.25].

England, it has to be said, represent awful value at [1.86] even if they have made the right decision in the context of this series alone in pairing Rashid and Mooen. They may be the best tweak twins they have got, but that doesn't mean they are actually good enough themselves at this level.

Moeen was dropped for horrible performances in the winter and the perception that his wicket-taking ability had declined. Rashid, often expensive in Tests and lacking the required control, was not even selected for the Ashes.

The toss aside, the battle then comes down to which spin attack is better. And that's not even a fair fight.

Ashwin and Jadeja could be forgiven for reckoning they are playing at home and their repertoire of flight and sleight of hand gives them a significant advantage against an England batting line-up which remains unsure of itself.

There remain question marks over Alastair Cook's form at the top level while Keaton Jennings, his opening partner, and Dawid Malan, are still to nail down their places.

Although India are a firm bet, it is hard to be so emphatic about the margin of victory because of the possible change in weather conditions and, of course, the importance of the toss. A 3-1 India victory makes some appeal at [12.0], likewise a 2-1 win at [12.5] if baked surfaces mean the weight of runs in the first two innings make stalemates likely.

Ed Hawkins P-L

2018: +17.21pts
2017: +12pts
2016: +18.1pts
2015: +38pts
2014: +31.5pts
2013: +25pts
Based only on available prices. Does not include back-to-lay in-running match advice or commission rate. Figures 2013-2016 on 1pt level stakes. New points system (0.5pt-5) introduced for 2017. Includes Hawk-Eye stats column p-l

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