Robin Hutchison and Bill Esdaile bring you the best cricket and racing bets of the weekend
IN THE headlong rush to laugh at Australia’s misfortunes it’s been easy to overlook the fact England have deficiencies in all three facets of the game.
A comfortable victory over New Zealand in the Test series was followed by a rude awakening with the white ball.
Martin Guptill in particular took a shine to England’s second-string attack shorn of Stuart Broad and Steven Finn. Their batsmen fared little better.
A top score of 37 in the first ODI and 34 in the second, leaving aside Jonathan Trott’s ponderously accumulated century, only exposed the dropped catches and slipshod fielding.
Yet in fairness to Andy Flower’s men, the timing of their partial resurrection in the dead rubber at Trent Bridge couldn’t have been better.
Alastair Cook may not have hung around, but a decent knock from opener Ian Bell along with contributions from Trott, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler helped post their first competitive score.
Between them Finn and Broad took four wickets, and James Tredwell’s 3-51, including the much-prized scalp of Guptill, proved there is life in the attack outside the new ball pairing.
Their opponents tomorrow are in need of a fillip too, after the mirth-inducing ignominy of their 243-run defeat against India in Cardiff.
For those in need of a smile, it’s worth reminding ourselves that only Phil Hughes and Adam Voges managed double figures – while eight others contributed five runs or fewer.
It’s also worth noting that they beat Pakistan, however, drew with Sri Lanka away from home, and whitewashed the West Indies in recent tournaments.
Such inconsistency by both sides led to cautious initial pricing in the offices, with bookies offering little between them.
But as the money has come for the hosts the Aussies have slipped out to 11/10 with Coral, reflecting a lack of faith fuelled by patriotic pride.
They are not so far out yet that I think they’re worth a go, and I’m inclined to believe they’ll need another match before they’re reacquainted with English conditions, despite the pleasant forecast.
We’re not going to get rich on a 4/5 shot however, and a dip into the other markets is required.
For a man who has enjoyed as much success in Australia as his sea-faring namesake, captain Cook is worthy favourite at 3/1 to be top England batsman.
There are cases to be made for Bell and Trott at 7/2 and 10/3 too, and I’ll certainly be buying the runs of the former with Sporting Index on an Edgbaston ground which has yielded five wins for the hosts in their last six completed ODIs.
Yet the 49 in 40 balls that Morgan scampered in Nottingham suggests England’s finest finisher is back to his best.
The 7/1 Stan James are offering about our man in the middle-order is well worth a look if Australia’s quick bowlers see off England’s leading quartet.
His Middlesex team-mate Steven Finn, who scooped the FTI Most Valuable Player award in the winter, will be hoping he’ll be among the wickets too. He’s 7/2 to be top England bowler with Coral.