Keeping the faith with England has paid off in Test series recently and that is the philosophy with which to approach the Second Test of the Ashes battle at the Adelaide Oval.
England lost the First Test at one of Australia’s favourite grounds, Brisbane’s Gabba, by 381 runs after being odds on when the home team was toiling at 132 runs for six wickets in its first innings. England batted extremely poorly in its first dig and that opened the door for Australia to bat the away side out of the match, which it did with some style. It was a forgone conclusion that England would lose from that point, although its second innings if 179 runs all out was ordinary. However, the point is this: England has not become a bad team overnight and Australia has not become a good one, either. And, also, that the First Test was over inside four days shows that neither side bats all that brilliantly, with the best bowling team holding a significant advantage.
On a flat Adelaide pitch that will mirror English conditions more so than the lively surface in Brisbane, one can expect England’s bowlers to prove that they are superior to those of Australia. Reverse swing and spin are likely to impact the Second Test much more than they did the First Test and England is better at both arts than Australia. England is set to recall Tim Bresnan, who is one of its top reverse swingers in the world, and Graeme Swann, while not in the best form of his life, is a level above Nathan Lyon. And Monty Panesar is a handy second spin option for England.
The Adelaide Oval has a history of producing high-scoring draws and that is why bookmakers are not overly keen to offer big odds about the Second Test ending level. Bet365 is top of the shops about a Second Test draw at odds of 2.75, while some bookmakers are quoting odds as low as 2.38. The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting some morning showers for the first day of the Second Test but the outlook is pretty good for the rest of the match. And surely no-one wants to back both Australia and England to rack up big scores when their respective batting line-ups did not compile monsters throughout the last Ashes series.
Backing either Australia or England to win the Second Test is more appealing than backing the draw. And with England’s recent Second Test record being so good – the Poms have won 13, drawn four and lost only one of the 18 Second Test matches that they have played under Andy Flower – the away team is the play at odds of 3.70 with Boylesports. Another statistic that supports a punt on England is how it performs with Bresnan in its side. England has won 15 of Bresnan’s 21 Test games, winning the same number of the 36 Test matches that he has missed since he made his debut four years ago.
It is worth waiting for the Second Test toss to take place as teams that bat first have won 33 of the 71 Test games at the Adelaide Oval since 1884, with 19 sides that fielded first triumphing and 19 matches ending in draws.
With regards to Second Test exotics, one would back a few England batsmen to be the official man of the match. One writes this because Adelaide Oval man-of-the-match awards have gone to batsmen in 10 of the last 11 Test games played at the ground, with the strange exception being when the judges rated Peter Siddle’s six match wickets against India of greater merit than the first-innings double hundreds of Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting. If one had to single out an England batsman it would be Kevin Pietersen at odds of 14.00 with Unibet because KP hit 227 runs in a brilliant knock versus Australia at the Adelaide Oval in 2010. But dutching Pietersen at odds of 14.00 with Alistair Cook at odds of 12.00 with Stan James, and Bell at odds of 17.00 with Coral, gives one England’s best three batsmen at odds of around 4.68. One may prefer to back England to win the Second Test at odds of 3.70 but, if the game does end up as a draw, the man of the match is likely to be a batsman rather than a bowler so one has the draw on one’s side.