Weather could have biggest say in the pivotal third Test

<strong>ENGLAND</strong> vs <strong>AUSTRALIA</strong><br />TODAY 11AM - SKY SPORTS 1<br /><br />AFTER a thrilling Test in the capital the series is Birmingham-bound, returning to the scene of perhaps the most memorable Ashes encounter of all time.<br /><br />Unfortunately the key protagonists from Edgbaston 2005 &ndash; as captured in one of the most iconic sporting images ever &ndash; look unlikely to be reunited. Even if Brett Lee does succumb to his battered body and avoids an encounter with his nemesis Andrew Flintoff there are plenty of other subplots developing. A fine battle between the captains is emerging, and Andrew Strauss is showing he&rsquo;s no pushover after his twelfth man shenanigans in Cardiff and an excellent decision not to enforce the follow-on last time out. Injuries and ill-form are also having a say, with places in both sides likely to be up for grabs. Aside from selection headaches, the weather has contributed, and looks likely to do so again.<br /><br />With rain forecast, the draw has come in quicker than Mike Gatting heading to the pavilion for lunch in days of yore, and is now odds-on across the board. Australia are available at 11/4 to level the series, while England are are a best priced 9/2 with William Hill. For those looking to have an outright bet on the game, backing the Three Lions must appeal. There&rsquo;s not much between the sides and the expected bad weather could help put the cat among the pigeons.<br /><br />The unpredictability surrounding this match means I&rsquo;ll be looking to put my money elsewhere. James Anderson has gone from being a promising paceman to a very impressive cricketer. His bowling is now far more consistent and his batting has come on leaps and bounds after hours spent in the nets. Now one of the first names on the team sheet the Lancastrian swinger looks great value at 7/4 with Boylesports to be his country&rsquo;s top bowler at the end of the series. County colleague Flintoff may be a wicket ahead of him on seven with two games down, but Jimmy&rsquo;s not hit his best form yet. There can also be no guarantees Freddie&rsquo;s cortisone-fuelled knee will survive the back-to-back strains of Edgbaston and Headingley, and be fit for The Oval too.<br /><br />At the other end of the order Strauss looks to be a solid proposition for England&rsquo;s series top scorer. He&rsquo;s in great touch and can be backed at evens &ndash; a price that will appeal to those who don&rsquo;t mind backing a &lsquo;shorty&rsquo;. However it&rsquo;s his opening partner Alastair Cook that looks real value at around 13/2 on Betdaq. After a wobbly start his rhythm returned at Lord&rsquo;s and there is time for him to reel in Paul Collingwood and close the gap on his skipper. Incidentally, Ian Bell returns to the England starting XI today and Sporting Index are quoting his series runs at 185-200 which looks sure to attract plenty of buyers.<br /><br /><strong>POINTERS...</strong><br />England to win third Test at 9/2 (William Hill)<br />James Anderson to be England&rsquo;s Ashes <br />series top bowler at 7/4 (Boylesports)<br />Alastair Cook to be England&rsquo;s Ashes <br />series top scorer at 13/2 (Betdaq)<br />