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Test Match Betting: West Indies v England Fourth Test

Test previews RSS / / 24 February 2009 /

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England will feel more like the last Test was lost than drawn and the question is how they will now recover from it. Ed Hawkins talks us through the stats and the betting.

"It felt like a defeat," said England captain Andrew Strauss. It looked like one, too as Daren Powell punched the gloomy air and England's players trudged off the old Antigua Recreation Ground after a thrilling third Test.

Strauss now has the unenviable job of raising his players' spirits which have slumped like the confidence of account holders in Allen Stanford's bank ahead of the fourth Test in Barbados. He may wish he had never admitted to such dark emotions because if England do not win there, they will be on the brink of becoming the first superpower to lose a series to West Indies in six years.

The hosts are [3.7] to confirm their return to the top table with England [2.78] and the draw [2.68] - there hasn't been one on this ground in the last eight Tests.

Strauss, however, can be forgiven for getting a little down on things. His nature is chirpy rather than churlish and in the warm bright light of the next Antigua morning he will have taken solace that his side were only a wicket away from being all square.

England had done everything but win as they played some of their best cricket for years, reminiscent of the last time they were in the Caribbean, five years previously. All the batsmen looked in good form, the fielding was of a high standard and their bowlers ran in with aggression and pace. And in Graeme Swann they have found a spinner who can attack and not disgrace himself with the bat.

Most importantly of all, their was a will to win, something that was perhaps lacking under the Moores-Pietersen axis. It was typified by the way Andrew Flintoff bowled himself out of the Barbados Test, and possibly the series, as England tried to prise Powell and partner Field Edwards from the crease.

If Flintoff's act was one of desperation, England need to rediscover their senses. The formbook, looking back over the last five days of cricket, has England the better side of the two. To go farther back, it may suggest the same again because of the freakish, not to mention nightmarish, one solitary session that cost them so dearly in Jamaica.

But will England really manage to raise their game again following the "defeat" in St John's? It is a question that has to be answered because punters can be guilty of reading too much into the emotional state of sporting teams after a setback.

More comfort can be found in the pages of nostalgia. England are no strangers to having to settle for stalemate after apparent domination. Eight times in their history they have enjoyed a first-innings lead of more than 300 and failed to win. On their next outing on each of those occasions (stretching back to 1902), they were beaten only once suggesting the depression does not last for long.

It is not just the stiff upper lip, either. Throughout Test history there have been only four sides who have lost their next game after going through the so-called trauma (with the criteria above) of having the game within their grasp only to fling it away.

If that helps one makes up one's mind regarding whether England are value, then it is time to turn the attention to the runs market. More good news here for the visitors as Ramnaresh Sarwan, their new nemesis, averages only 25.5 runs per innings in Barbados. Alas, their old one, Shiv Chanderpaul averages 48.1.

Of the fit and able Englishmen only Steve Harmison has played Test cricket at this venue before when his side won by eight wickets, cheered by huge tourist support. Barbados is already crawling with eager and excited English. The players would be wise to get into the same mindset.

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