THIS summer’s Ashes series has proven to be many things but predictable is not one of them. Just under a month ago Australia arrived in Cardiff with their tails up following an impressive tour of the Caribbean, only to lose by 169 runs.
On a flat track at Lord’s they then took advantage of a fortuitous coin toss to inflict a heavy defeat on their hosts.
In Birmingham last week the wheel turned full circle again as England emerged victorious after just three days of topsy-turvy cricket.
Such unpredictability makes for intriguing viewing if you’re a neutral. As a punter, it’s a minefield.
The issue is that we’re dealing with two fairly mediocre sides here; two mediocre sides peppered with a couple of class acts apiece.
Steve Smith and Chris Rogers are the stand-out stars in the Australian firmament, with Mitchell Johnson blazing a fiery yet inconsistent trail.
For England Joe Root and the now injured Jimmy Anderson have been the rocks around which the maelstrom has swirled.
Others have contributed in passing, of course, but a lack of quality throughout the squads has resulted in inconsistency.
It’s anyone’s guess which way things will go at Trent Bridge.
The good news for the home team is that they have an impressive record at the ground, triumphing in seven of their last 10 Tests.
If Australia’s last two visits are anything to go by, fans should expect the game to be one of the more memorable of the series.
In 2005, England recorded a nervy three-wicket win chasing just 129, while Australia fell 14 runs short of victory in 2013 after number 11 Ashton Agar top-scored with 98.
Australia have much to ponder in their team selection and yet the best line-up change they could have hoped for is the non-appearance of paceman Anderson.
The Lancastrian has claimed 53 wickets in Nottingham at a miserly average of 19.24, with six five-fors and two 10 wicket hauls to his name.
Rookie Mark Wood has a good record on the ground in the county game too. But it is hard to see the Durham man having the same impact as a match-winner like Anderson, assuming that Australia can finally get to grips with the moving ball.
The visitors can be tentatively backed at 11/10 for victory, which would tee up a fantastic decider at the Oval.
They have produced the highest opening partnerships in two of the three games to date, thanks in large part to the exposure of Adam Lyth’s temperament, and are available again at 8/13.
But I’ll also be taking advantage of Betway’s 17/20 about Ian Bell scoring over 30 runs in the first innings on a ground where he has hit centuries in two of his last four Tests.
Australia to win the fourth Test 11/10 with Betway
Australia to have the highest opening partnership 8/13 with Betway
Ian Bell to score over 30 runs in the first innings 17/20 with Betway