In his first in-play update of the Second Test, Ed Hawkins says Steve Smith's a bet in-play to finish off England's challenge on day two at a sweltering Adelaide Oval
"Smith as skipper goes up a gear. His career average is better when he's in charge and he has a massive mark of 89 with the armband on in Australia"
England need to pray
St Peter's Cathedral is just behind the Adelaide Oval. You can see it peeping out between the old scoreboard and Pennington Gardens. England would have done well to stop off on their way back to the hotel and have good pray. Only a higher power can save them now.
Despite plenty of guts, determination and effort, day one of the second Test was a disaster. Conceding more than 400 looks inevitable and they are going to have to bat last on a surface which could be perfect for Nathan Lyon. In fact, everything seems to be conspiring against them.
It didn't start off like that. Thew news that Pat Cummins would miss the Test because of a Covid close contact was a major boost for England. Already without Josh Hazlewood, this is an Aussie reserve bowling line-up. Michael Neser and Jhye Richardson were drafted in.
One could have been forgiven for reckoning that England were the value. James Anderson and Stuart Broad were back and they had a pink ball to nip around at the start and end of play. In between they had to be attritional.
They managed the latter. But did very little with the hard, pink cherry at either end when it really counted.
As a result, Australia closed on 1.444/9, England at 19.018/1 and the draw 3.8014/5. Bet the market here. It was emphatically Australia's day.
Things might have been different had England found the zip and movement in the last ten overs when they had the new ball. It could well prove to be the pivotal period in the entire series. Had the tourists managed a quick burst of three wickets they would have been slap bang back in the game.
That they didn't was down to Jos Buttler dropping a regulation chance off Marnus Labuschagne and, criminally, not making him or Steve Smith play enough.
The England bowlers' radar was awry just when it really counted. For most of the day they had been consistent in line and length. Clearly that effort took its toll.
It was alarming to see the drop off in pace from an attack which is far too samey for Australian conditions. It was particularly concerning to see Ollie Robinson struggling to trouble the speed gun's number eight digit.
How do we bet from here? Well, the draw price is a big interest. If Australia turn the screw - as they should in stifling temperatures on day two - then it could shorten to the sort of number that we'd be very interested in laying. Keep eyes peeled for 2.85. It will go through the floor if England manage a solid opening start.
That is another leap of faith, though. The way the game is panning out could see Australia bat for much of the day and then stick England in with the sun setting and the night closing in. We also note the 1.8810/11 available about laying 'yes' for the match to go to day five.
Stat of the day
The pink ball never swung more than 0.9 degrees on day one. The average for a red ball is 0.7. To put that into context, the last time day one of a Test Down Under saw the same amount of swing David Warner made a triple century against Pakistan. It was also a day-night Test. It was also at Adelaide. England will sleep badly.
Steve Smith's emergency return to the captaincy has been glossed over somewhat. But whatever your view of a ball-tamperer leading his country, it is hard not to respect his batting ability.
Having survived the new ball, Smith looks in ominous touch. The numbers loom large for England, too.
Smith as skipper goes up a gear. His career average is better when he's in charge and he has a massive mark of 89 with the armband on in Australia.
The Sportsbook traders rate him at 10/11 to go over 51.5. He finished unbeaten on 18. Once he gets past 18 he has an average of 95 as captain. He is5/4to go over 59.5.
As for Australia'sinnings runs, they have been set at over/under 463.5. Ordinarily we'd be selling at such a quote because it is toppy with a new ball in play. However, we have little confidence that England are not utterly demoralised.
Ashes series day wins tally
Australia 4 England 1
Ed Hawkins P-L
2021: +32.04 2020: +5.91 2019: +37.25pts 2018: +23.53pts 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 advice or commission rate. Figures 2013-2016 on 1pt level stakes. Includes Hawk-Eye column p-l