Ed Hawkins uncovers a terrific first-innings wager as England fear another drubbing from Christmas night at the MCG.
"They've only played together 13 times but in eight of those at least one of them has scored a first-innings ton."
Australia v England
Saturday 25 December 23.30
TV: live on BT Sport
Australia probably can't believe their luck. Success in Adelaide came despite being without their two best bowlers and skipper. Pat Cummins returns for this one but Josh Hazlewood remains a doubt.
Michael Neser is likely to be the one to miss out give that Jhye Richardson claimed five wickets in the fourth innings in the second Test. Scott Boland, the Victoria pacer, has been called up purely as cover.
So secure are Australia that they can afford to persist with opener Marcus Harris, who has been disappointing. Usman Khawaja is an upgrade when they do decide to swing the axe.
Probable XI: Warner, Harris, Labuschagne, Smith, Head, Green, Carey, Cummins, Starc, Richardson, Lyon
England a mess
To listen to Chris Silverwood talk, England have nothing to worry about. He wouldn't change a thing. The skill sets were good. It's gibberish and betrays the chaos and lack of confidence in the camp.
To that end they are expected to make four changes. Haseeb Hameed should lose out to Zak Crawley, although it could easily have been Rory Burns. Jonny Bairstow replaces the shot Ollie Pope and Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad step away for Mark Wood and one spinner from Jack Leach or Dom Bess.
Don't rule out a fudge, however. Woakes instead of Ollie Robinson is a classic England pick to try to lengthen the batting. It won't matter that Robinson is seven for 170 in the series.
Possible XI: Burns, Crawley, Malan, Root, Stokes, Bairstow, Buttler, Robinson, Leach, Wood, Anderson
The MCG surface has undergone a makeover. Or, in other words, it was dug up because it was so terribly bland. Those that can remember the 2017 bore fest - when Alastair Cook made a double ton - wish they couldn't. Scorecards before 2020 are no use.
Last year India beat Australia by eight wickets there. The hosts were bowled out for 195. India replied with 326. There was swing and spin for the India attack. In the two Sheffield Shield matches since there have been three scores under 200 in first-innings.
There might, just might, be value in reckoning Australia's runs are pitched too high in the high 390s. But it's wise to time any wager with ball condition. The red ball swings up front but will dramatically reduce in movement by the 20th.
Aussies by an innings at 8s?
Australia continue to shorten in the match odds. They are 1.594/7 with England 6.205/1 and the draw 5.905/1.
Unless you reckon England, with poor plans, low confidence and batting average numbers which read like a counting test for a nursery, can somehow morph into a competitive unit there's precious little value to be had.
The best hope is that somehow England get some assistance from the pitch and Australia's price could be bumped up to the 1.705/7 1.705/7 region. Place an order and keep fingers crossed.
It's also worth keeping an eye on the fifth day market. Often 'no' will get a boost with runs and we're looking for 1.9110/11.
Sportsbook go 8/1 that Australia win by an innings. It's a strong antidote to another uncompetitive heat.
Marnus Labuschagne, the run machine, has been boosted to 3/1 by Sportsbook for top Aussie bat in the first innings. Labuschagne got a fifty in that game against India. He is 5/4 for another and 4/1 for a ton in first innings.
Steve Smith is 5/2 to top, 5/4 for a fifty and 9/2 for a century. The latter looks a pick as he's 4/1 on win rate in that market on three-year form.
However, the standout wager is Sportsbook's offer of 9/5 that one of Labuschagne or Smith score a first-innings century. They've only played together 13 times (not including when Labuschagne burst onto the scene at Lord's in 2019 as Smith's concussion replacement) but in eight of those at least one of them has scored a first-innings ton.
There's a dearth of value for top England bat even if Joe Root has been boosted to 2/1. Dawid Malan is now too skinny at 10/3.
Other prices of note include Robinson at 3/1 to be top England wicket-taker in the first and Cummins at 9/1 for man of the match.
Best Boxing Day bets on Cricket...Only Bettor
Ed Hawkins P-L
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
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