England v Australia Third Test Betting: Aussies a value price to land knockout blow even without Smith

Mitchell Starc
Mitchell Starc could come back into the Australian bowling attack

Ed Hawkins says the hosts are poor value at skinny prices in Leeds from Thursday even without Steve Smith in the tourists' side...

"The Australia attack has more collective pace and nous, Nathan Lyon being the trump card on the latter. England are [1.73] for victory and that's a stinker of a price, particularly if they have to bat last."

England v Australia
Thursday, 11:00
Live on Sky Sports Cricket

Problems remain for hosts

England can consider themselves unfortunate not to be level after having the best of the rain-ruined Lord's Test. They can also be confident they have found a fast bowler who will terrify batsmen the world over - providing Jofra Archer remains fit.

Yet it would be wrong to claim that England are a team without problems just because poor weather cost them a win. The problems with their batting unit will not go away until they, well, go away. Jason Roy and Joe Denly are not up to Test standard. Roy is a limited-overs player - and a fine one - and that will just have to be his lot in life.

Roy could well bat at No 4 in this game with Denly promoted to open. Considering both have been shown to have flawed techniques it probably doesn't matter where they bat. It would be a major surprise if both survived the series.

Despite worries about those two, England's biggest concern is Joe Root. Pressure (caused by the flops around him and the burden of Ashes captaincy) is taking its toll. If Root could bat half as well as Steve Smith then England would be gung-ho.

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Smith absence swings balance of power

Steve Smith won't play here because of concussion. Seven days is a minimum a sufferer needs to rest for fear of a second blow causing significant damage. Australia have rightly put the safety of their player ahead of the result.

Smith's absence dramatically swings the balance of power towards England - after the news was confirmed the hosts were been backed in from [1.9] to [1.72] to win the Test with Australia out to [3.35]..

Just as England have had significant issues scoring runs so have the Aussies. Cameron Bancroft and David Warner can't buy a run, Usman Khawaja has not convinced while Matthew Wade and Tim Paine, it seems, need to an old ball and a depleted attack to look good.

Marnus Labuschagne looks a solid replacement for Smith. His half-century under pressure in the fourth innings at HQ was superb.

There could be changes with the ball, too. Mitchell Starc is being touted for a game with Australia keen to rotate their attack. Peter Siddle looks vulnerable.

Losing in Leeds

Headingley is, statistically, England's least second successful home venue. They have a win-loss ratio of 1.3, marginally better than 1.2 at Trent Bridge. They have lost three of their last five there. Last summer they beat Pakistan by an innings. That stunted a sequence of five defeats in eight in Leeds. In the last 17 Tests the first-innings average is 326. The wicket is, according to some very clever analysis, the quickest in England. This will assist Archer but the likes of Pat Cummins and Starc, too. The weather forecast is good with no rain expected. If the sun is shining, batting is easy. Bowlers need that cloud cover.

England an awful price

Are England fairly so short at odds-on even with Smith absent?

Batting foibles remain. The Australia attack has more collective pace and nous, Nathan Lyon being the trump card on the latter. It's a stinker of a price, particularly if they have to bat last.

Before a ball was bowled in this series we said that the team batting first would dominate. Nothing that has happened so far has changed our mind. Australia are a terrific bet if they get the chance to bat first.

They are [3.35]. That will take a hit if the toss goes England's way but, remember, if the Aussies win here the urn is retained.

Buttler and Bairstow brimming

Jos Buttler won the man of the match award at the venue last time with a 74-ball 80 that knocked the stuffing out of Pakistan in the first dig. He is 6/1 with Betfair Sportsbook for top England bat first-innings honours. Jonny Bairstow, on his home ground, had a fine record. He is averaging 54 and after a couple of doughty knocks at Lord's, the 11/2 could tempt. Root, also at home, is 3/1 but he has an average of 35 and he's costing punters time and time again. He hasn't won this market in the last 12.

Head and Harris underrated

Smith is chalked up at 15/8 by Sportsbook for top Aussie bat. That could mean that virtually everybody else is a value punt considering he is unlikely to feature. The standout, though, is probably Travis Head at 8s. He has been well organised at times and has plenty of courage. He's also played for Yorkshire so he will feel right at home. Labuschagne gets an 11/2 quote. If Australia decide to ditch Bancroft (and on form you can't blame them), Marcus Harris is a bet at 6s. He's no way near that price on ability.

Ed Hawkins P-L

2019: +29.18pts
2018: +23.53pts
2017: +12pts
2016: +18.1pts
2015: +38pts
2014: +31.5pts
2013: +25pts
Based only on available prices. Does not include back-to-lay in-running match advice or commission rate. Figures 2013-2016 on 1pt level stakes. New points system (0.5pt-5) introduced for 2017. Includes Hawk-Eye stats column p-l

Ed Hawkins,

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