England have just enjoyed their best day of the series and are now favourites for the fourth test. Paul Krishnamurty predicts they will maintain that advantage and at worst avoid defeat...
"If these positions were reversed, Australia's odds would be well south of 1.5. Yet the conditions of this match are notably different in many respects from the previous three and...the gulf between these two sides is nothing like the scoreline suggests."
Latest score: Australia 327 all out, England 192-2
Match Odds: Australia 3.35, England
2.84, Draw 2.86
It has taken until the fourth match and for the Ashes to already be lost, but England are at last in firm command of a test. They even finished their best day of the series in perfect style, as former captain Alastair Cook notched what may well turn out to be the last ton of an illustrious career.
Naturally, this complete reversal of the formbook meant volatility and some massive turnarounds on Betfair markets. First, an Australian collapse caused carnage on their innings runs markets, as Australia lost their last seven wickets for just 67 runs. Punters who'd taken 1.01 about 350 or more, 1.04 about 375 plus or 1.07 about 400 plus were badly burnt.
So far as the outright odds are concerned, England were matched at an earlier high of 26.0 - equivalent to a mere 4% chance of winning the test - before the collapse. Going into day three, they are down to just 2.84 (35%). Can they maintain control and either get a win on the board or at least avoid a series whitewash?
My verdict is very much in the affirmative. Granted, we have seen several false dawns this winter. Innings that, like this one, looked certain to go well beyond 400 only for the tail to collapse ignominiously. Or sessions where the Australian batsmen were utterly dominant, taking games away from the visitors.
All of that, however, is factored into the odds. If these scores and positions were reversed, Australia's odds would be well south of 1.5. Yet the conditions of this match are notably different in many respects from the previous three and, as we've finally seen these last couple of days, the gulf between these two sides is nothing like the scoreline suggests.
In fact, I would argue that this series has been all about home advantage, just like almost all test cricket nowadays. At the Gabba and particularly the WACA, England simply didn't have the bowling firepower to compete with the Australian attack's extreme pace. Just as the Aussies would struggle to cope with a swinging ball in overcast conditions at Headingley or Trent Bridge.
Melbourne, though, has rarely been quite so daunting for visiting English sides and their bowlers have very much exploited these conditions better. Without Mitchell Starc or a bouncy surface to contend with, England's batsmen have looked much more comfortable than their counterparts did against Anderson and Broad.
There may also be a knock-on effect from the series already being won. Whilst they surely want a whitewash, Australian could be forgiven for slightly stepping off the gas. Alternatively, England have nothing to lose now. Cook - a passenger previously - suddenly looked carefree. I'm expecting more contributions from an England middle-order and tail that must be ashamed of their efforts so far.
They may well get a win on the board but, for now at least, I'm sticking with the draw, which has shortened nearly a full point since advised yesterday. My prediction for today is that England will continue to make serene progress and put 400 plus on the board. That target is currently a 1.52 chance in our England 1st Innings Runs market.
If so, that will take most if not all of the day, leaving Australia a huge mountain to climb. I am always loathe to lay outsiders in cricket, given the potential for massive, quick change - but they make absolutely no appeal at 3.35. If they start their second innings say 100 behind, by the time it would take them to set a challenging fourth innings target, we would be well into day five and the draw would be odds-on. If England get 500, the hosts would have no hopes beyond saving the game.
If you're looking for an outright bet ahead of day three, laying Australia would be my advice, but I'm quite happy just being on the draw between 4.1 and 3.8. Unless this pitch notably deteriorates, I expect it to go odds-on at some stage and am not setting out any plans to cash out our positions yet.
Instead, let's have a small interest on England runs. Reaching 450 today is perfectly within range at the current 3.36 run-rate. If Cook and Root re-settle early, this could be a very long and demoralising day in the field for Australia's bowlers. It would be yet another example of how roles are being reversed in this match.
Back England to score 450 or more runs 3u @ [2.14]
Outright bet already advised
Back The Draw 5u @ 3.8