With two days left to play at the MCG, England are in a dominant position. Can they open their account in this series or will it prove to be another false dawn? Paul Krishnamurty weighs the situation...
"England are the best bet...The visitors' fired-up attack will take wickets with enough frequency to leave an easy fourth innings target. As for the weather, overcast conditions will aid their bowlers."
Latest score: Australia 327 all out, England 491-9
With little else to play for than pride, England have finally arrived at the Ashes party. Key players such as unbeaten double centurion Alastair Cook and Stuart Broad have at last found form and, having dominated most of the sessions in this match, the visitors are on course for a comprehensive victory. Betfair markets, however, remain sceptical that they will finish the job.
Normally a team in this position would be clear odds-on favourites, yet England are vying with the draw. Three reasons explain it. First, the effect of serial failures this winter has dented the confidence of backers. Second, there are some scattered showers around which may slightly reduce the number of overs left. Third and for my money most significantly, is the pitch.
One can never really draw firm conclusions about the pitch until both sides have batted. At the start, it was widely declared to be a road and as Australia toiled yesterday, it certainly seemed that way. However previously England had bowled effectively and economically on it to dismiss the Aussies, getting plenty of reverse swing.
Could it simply be that the Aussie bowlers are less suited to it than previous surfaces in this series or just lacking that little extra spark having already won the series? Or is this drop-in pitch one of those that gets flatter and flatter?
I prefer the former theory and believe that, without Starc or a fast, bouncy pitch, this Aussie attack is ordinary. My earlier bet on the draw is now well ahead and the time will soon arrive to cash out. My target price is 2.0 or even money, which may require just a wicketless over or two of the Australian innings to reach, or some morning rain.
When that cash out point comes, I'll announce it on Twitter. However if you're not staying up all night and betting in-running, I recommend placing a lay order at even money to bank the profit.
For newcomers to the market, though, England are the best bet in my view. Australia need a miracle to win - scoring at a much higher rate than the first innings, then bowling England out cheaply and quickly in the fourth innings. More likely is they will react like most teams in this situation and try to save the test.
That is a tall order, requiring tremendous resilience, to which a team who've already won the series may not be ideally suited. I reckon that by lunch or soon after, this match will have boiled down to either England or the draw. The visitors' fired-up attack will take wickets with enough frequency to leave an easy fourth innings target for tomorrow. As for the weather, overcast conditions will aid their bowlers more than losing a few overs will hurt their chance.
The best way to bet in that scenario is to trade the swings - back England whenever a substantial Aussie partnership drives their odds out, then lay back for a profit once the wicket falls. Again, I'll update any specific positions on Twitter.
Otherwise, there's still plenty of side market action to focus upon. The main one will be Australia 2nd Innings Runs, once the England innings is complete. I think 300 will be a tough ask, but will await the odds before deciding how to bet.
Also of great interest over these final two days is Test Match End - which involves predicting the session in which the match will finish. Day 5 Evening was last matched at 1.23 but is far from certain. It is quite possible that England effectively wrap this test up with a day to spare, let alone a session.
Already advised - Back The Draw 5u @ 3.8
New position - place order to lay 9u @ [2.0]