Ed Hawkins previews the final Test of the summer as England look to compound Australia's woes with a 4-1 series victory at The Oval, from Thursday...
"We can wonder all we like about the mindset of each team but we don't know for sure. So we stick to what we absolutely know to be true and bet accordingly. Can we all agree that we know, for sure, Australia have been the poorer side in this series? Yes? Okay then. England it is."
England v Australia
Start time: 11:00
TV: live on Sky Sports
UPDATE: Anderson is definitely out.
The hangover has passed but England are left with a headache of a different nature: can Mark Wood make it through the Test with a chronic ankle problem?
There is a threat the Durham man could break down halfway through the match with a problem which is likely to require surgery. This could be his last Test for some time.
James Anderson was yesterday ruled out of the contest and England resisted the temptation to give Adil Rashid a run out. Refreshing from England because the last thing punters would have wanted was a sign that England were experimenting, as they did here in 2013.
Alastair Cook has apparently phoned each squad member during the break urging them to retain their focus. That is refreshing, too.
Australia are preparing for the demolition before rebuilding. Michael Clarke, the captain, and Chris Rogers are definitely playing their last Test while we might also have seen the last of Adam Voges, Shane Watson and Peter Siddle.
Brad Haddin, the wicketkeeper, has already left the tour and in another sign of a team in transition David Warner has been appointed as vice-captain to Steve Smith, Clarke's successor.
Despite the winds of change Australia are still playing shoddy cricket. At Northampton in a warm-up they were reduced to 180 for eight. Thanks to a half-century from Pat Cummins, the bowler, they earned respectability. But the batting is still failing.
Cummins could get the nod ahead of Josh Hazlewood. Mitchell Marsh should replace his brother Shaun.
The first-innings average at The Oval in the last ten Tests is 356. That bolsters the view that strip is good for batting but it is not always so batsman-friendly.
Australia will be discomfited to note that sides have been shot out as the ball has swung; India for 148 last year, England for 233 v Pakistan in 2010, South Africa for 194 in 2008 and England for 173 against Pakistan in 2006.
In 2009, Australia were bowled out for 160 in reply to England's 332 and it was that familiar foe Stuart Broad who did the damage. Runs are not guaranteed. Indeed, backing 350 or more would have cost you five times in the last ten first digs. Crazy when you consider the odds would have been sub [1.50].
In the Championship this season the first-innings scores read: 336-448-448-292-340. Three of the five games produced results.
England are [2.5], Australia are [2.66] and the draw is [4.4]. The big question, though, is: will these sides be trying their utmost? We try to answer that here but even if both sides struggle to fire 100%, it is hard to argue that England are not a decent pick.
If they bat first they have the chance to take command and demoralise Australia further. If they bowl first Australia's batting and confidence is shaky enough that the hosts will fancy rolling them in similar fashion to the humiliation at Trent Bridge.
Betting - on anything - comes down to separating fact from fiction. We can wonder all we like about the mindset of each team but we don't know for sure. So we stick to what we absolutely know to be true and bet accordingly. That might be a good batting wicket. Or a toss bias (there isn't one here in the last ten years, by the way).
Can we all agree that we know, for sure, Australia have been the poorer side in this series? Yes? Okay then. England it is.
Joe Root averages 114 in two Tests at The Oval. He is [4.1]. Alastair Cook, who averages 47, is [5.3]. Ian Bell, who you get the feeling is in line with a good score given the probable pitch and the series situation, is [6.2].
Smith whacked a ton on his last visit and the pitch should suit him. He is [4.7]. Warner, too, should fancy himself for runs at [5.3]. Rogers, who averages 82 in first-class cricket at The Oval and has a double ton to his name, is [5.2]. Clarke is [7.0].
Ed Hawkins P/L
To £10 level stakes (unless otherwise stated), based only on available prices. Does not include back-to-lay in-running match advice or commission rate.
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