The Ashes are very much still alive and the compelling and excellent series heads to Old Trafford for act four of what has been a memorable period of cricket as England look to force a decider at The Oval next week.
Australia know that they will keep the urn if they just avoid defeat in one of these last two matches but having not won in England for 22 years their ambitions will surely be stronger than that. Game four is wonderfully poised.
You have to give England a lot of credit. After taking a couple of setbacks in the opening two matches they were able to give themselves a shot in the arm at Headingley a couple of weeks ago. Winning there wasn’t necessarily a big thing as it is a positive venue for Ben Stokes’ men but to withstand some real pressure in the fourth innings and get the job done will give them a lot more confidence than just a routine win.
The big thing for England in that match was that they had an attack which had a bit of heat in it and they were able to get Australia under pressure and maintain it. That was the blueprint for their bowling and if their batting stays true, or even improves in the areas where there is room for improvement, then they could yet send us to The Oval all square and set pulses racing over the next week. We can expect to see a very aggressive England here with an indifferent forecast.
It will be interesting to see how Australia go about their business here. There must be something in their minds somewhere they will be thinking that they should have won the series already. Those thoughts need to disappear quickly because they need to focus on getting the job done at a ground which ordinarily might well have suited them, although the forecast might balance out the power of play a little bit.
Australia will be all too aware that their big two batters haven’t really come to the party yet in this series. They will be hoping that they come good here as generally when they bat well the opposition struggle to win. Australia will also know that they have to be right on it with the ball as they just dropped off a little bit on what ended up being the final day in Leeds and were made to pay the price. It will be fascinating to see if Australia play for the draw with England having to force the pace.
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England have already named their XI for the contest as they so often do. They will make one change from Leeds which sees Jimmy Anderson returning on his home ground. Ollie Robinson is the man who will sit this one out.
Australia haven’t confirmed their XI for the match yet but they are said to be considering two changes with Josh Hazlewood coming in for Scott Boland and then Cameron Green returning in place of Todd Murphy who was used sparingly at Leeds.
I’ll go with a couple of bets for this match. I don’t want to get too involved in it because the forecast for the last two days of the match does not look good at the time of writing. There is a way to potentially take advantage of that though. England have made no secret of the fact that they are not interested in a draw these days and obviously they have no interest in one here as it would give Australia the urn so we can expect Ben Stokes and his men to double down on their aggression and look to put time back into this match as quickly as they possibly can. That leads me to think that over 11.5 sixes has a good shot at landing. The series so far has contained a number of sixes. There were 18 of them at Headingley and prior to that we saw 18 at Edgbaston and 11 at Lord’s. Rain wasn’t really an issue in those matches like it potentially is here so with England being forced to get on with it and short balls likely to be a weapon of choice of both attacks, some of which will naturally go for six, I like the over here.
There is therefore a chance that England make a bit of a mess of things in the first innings going too hard looking for the time that they need to get into the match. If that is the case then someone down the order could be the one to top score and in that case Chris Woakes could be overpriced at 33/1. He looked much more secure in his 32 not out in the run chase at Edgbaston and having faced this Australia attack I see no reason why he won’t go well against it again. While England want to put time in the game they won’t want to be rolled out for 150 so if it has gone a little pear-shaped then Woakes will be able to bat a little more sensibly and at least get them into the game a little bit. At this price I’ll pay to see how he goes.
Back Over 11.5 sixes for a 3/10 stake at 2.10 with Bet365
Back C.Woakes Top England 1st Inns Batter for a 1/10 stake at 34.00 with Betfair