Early signals from the MCG point towards business as usual, with Australia and Steve Smith looking dominant. Paul Krishnamurty, however, says opposing the hosts at this stage of the match could pay...
"For the next couple of days, this looks very hard work for bowlers. With the series gone, England's batsmen may feel the pressure lifted and they will not have to face Mitchell Starc this time. I expect them to stay competitive in this match, although actually winning it seems highly unlikely."
Latest score: Australia 244-3
Match Odds: Australia 1.52, England 12.5, Draw 3.8
Various moments during each match of this Ashes series have left a distinct sense of deja vu as momentum patterns repeat themselves. It goes like this. Australia take the early advantage, only to be dragged back by a resilient England. Then Steve Smith comes to the crease and all but takes the game away. Next when it's their turn to bat, we can expect a promising comeback by England's middle order, to be later ruined by an abject collapse by the tail.
The Melbourne test match is following the script so far, although Smith has yet to take the game away. Restarting on 65 not out with his side on 244-3, on course for another huge total, the Aussie skipper may well do so tomorrow morning. At just 1.52 to win the test, that's what the market expects but regardless of the eventual result, this does not feel like a great time to be backing the hosts.
My chief concern is how their slow run-rate will impact the outright market. The final two sessions and 61 overs produced just 142 runs - a pitiful rate of just 2.33. So whilst the Australia run line is ahead of where it started, a huge score is no certainty. With a good morning England could realistically bowl them out for less than 400 and even take the lead in the game.
Even if England don't take wickets, just to reach the current par line around 500 and be able to declare tomorrow with 15 overs to spare, Australia would need to score at 3.41. Ignore the last test where they carried on past 600 in order to bat England out of the game - I'm almost certain Smith will take an attacking approach now they've won the series.
I'll be surprised if they go past 525 and therefore am covering my opening runs position, advised on Twitter. We've already backed 475 plus for 4 units so, by laying 525 plus at 2.3, we create a profitable middle between 475 and 524, for minimal risk. See the bottom of this piece for the full details.
The second bet advised last night is also slightly ahead but here there are no plans to lay back in the short-term. I still think the draw is overpriced, at least for trading purposes, and was surprised it didn't shorten up more during that final wicketless session, after the bet was placed during the tea break.
New bet from @paulmotty on the 4th #Ashes Test - I've backed the draw at 4.2 for 5 units. Expect it to trade shorter at some stage. Scoring rate has dried up but wickets look hard to take on this pitch.? Betfair Exchange (@BetfairExchange) December 26, 2017
To be clear, I expect Australia will win this match in a similar fashion to the previous three. However successful trading is about correctly predicting the trajectory of odds, rather than the eventual result. Right now, the draw price has great scope to shorten up and little to lengthen.
The pitch will likely deteriorate but, for the next couple of days, this looks very hard work for bowlers. With the series gone, England's batsmen may feel the pressure lifted and they will not have to face Mitchell Starc this time. I expect them to stay competitive in this match, although actually winning it seems highly unlikely given the need to take 20 wickets.
We saw in the last match how just small changes in the weather forecast can transform the betting. All it would take is a bit of rain on the radar - and the forecast is not totally clear - and the draw price would collapse. Likewise, a solid start to England's innings, or a big middle-order partnership, would have the same effect. If you didn't take 4.2 in running, take 3.8 about the draw now.
Back The Draw 5u @ [3.8]
Updated in-play advice
Already backed Australia 475 or more 4u @ [2.1]
Now lay 525 or more 5u @ [2.3]
New Australia 1st Innings Runs Profit/Loss
Under 475: +1 unit
475 - 524: +9.4 units
525 or more: -2.1 units