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Fifth Ashes Test Day 1 In-Play Update: Buttler rally keeps England competitive

Cricketer Jos Buttler
Jos Buttler's unbeaten 64 has been invaluable for England
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With little to choose between England and Australia after the first day's play, Paul Krishnamurty analyses the main Ashes markets...

"For my money, Australia are likelier to reach 400 than be all out for 200 and must be the selection at current odds...this will ultimately boil down to a run chase."

Latest score: England 271-8

Match Odds: England [2.0], Australia [2.48], Draw [9.8]

The Ashes may be staying in Australia but, thanks in no small part to another rally from the tail, England are rated favourites to draw the series by winning this final test from The Oval.

England's tail wagging again

All things considered, England should probably be happy with 271-8 after losing the toss. Had the visitors performed better in the field - Joe Root was dropped three times - they may have struggled to make 200. Likewise, 300 looked a pipe dream before the current ninth wicket pairing put on 45.

It isn't clear, however, just how good that total is. Seven of the last eight first innings in tests at The Oval were at least 328. That score wasn't enough against Pakistan in 2016, nor 385 against South Africa in 2012.

Aussies may get best of the pitch

Indeed Oval pitches often play better on the second day. In those eight matches, three of the second innings were 486 or better, and only one score was worse than 292.

With that in mind and an eye on the Australia 1st Innings Runs market, England make no appeal at around even money. It will need a great bowling performance, and probably taking Steve Smith's wicket cheaply, to establish a meaningful first innings lead.

For my money, Australia are likelier to reach 400 than be all out for 200 and must be the selection at current odds. A draw is highly unlikely given a good weather forecast so this will ultimately boil down to a run chase.

Batting last is never ideal, and Tim Paine could indeed come to regret that toss decision, but Oval pitches can hold up pretty well. India made 345 in the fourth innings last year, South Africa 252 in 2018.

Visitors preferred at current odds

In that run chase scenario, I reckon [2.5] about the visitors will be a decent position. It has drifted since I took [2.18] at the beginning of the current partnership, but I'm still confident despite the bad timing.

Outright seems like the best way to back Australia right now. I wouldn't deter anyone from taking [2.5] on them getting 350 plus 1st Innings Runs, but would rather wait to see if lower is available in the event of early wickets falling.

Two more markets to consider are Top Australia 1st Innings Runscorer and Test Match End. Smith is rightly short for the former at [2.5], ahead of Marnus Labuschagne at [5.2]. [9.4] about Marcus Harris is eyecatching about an opener.

Back a Sunday evening finish

Test Match End involves picking the final session of the match. In the previous test, I laid out a scenario after day two for the rest of the match, that proved very close for the last three innings totals and timing of the finish. Starting half an innings earlier, here's my prediction.

England to add 29 runs in the morning to get 300. Australia to score 360 in fairly quick time, taking us through to just after lunch on Saturday. England to score 250, leaving the Aussies a target of 190.

This should take around 250-260 overs, which would result in a Day Four Evening finish. If slightly longer is needed, the extra half hour might be applied - that angle often pays off in evening sessions during tests.


Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty

Paul Krishnamurty,

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