Ashes Series - Australia England Fourth Test Odds, Prediction
The Ashes - Fourth Test Picks
Prior to the first test in Brisbane, we picked that Australia would win the Ashes 4-0, with a draw at Sydney in the final test robbing the home side of a historic third clean sweep in four attempts on their own turf. The odds on a 4-0 victory prior to the tournament were +1100, while the 5-0 result was paying +1600. It was a bold prediction, although both Australia and England have shown exactly the form we expected so far, and the current 3-0 scoreline is not a surprise at all.
Australia entered the first test at the 'Gabba paying -138, which was a steal considering their record at the ground. From there, the odds have decreased in value in every test: -163 at the second test in Adelaide, -189 at Perth in the third and are now -228 for the fourth test in Melbourne.
Once again it appears to be a question of how much the Australians will win by, as opposed to whether or not they will defeat England. It is expected to be hot and dry in Melbourne, which means the draw is almost certainly out of the equation unless England can stick around much better than they have so far in the series. While they have had their moments, and won every single toss, they simply haven't looked like a competitive test side for the full five days in any match so far.
Why Australia Will Win The Fourth Test
Below are the odds for the fourth test, set to get underway at 10:30 am local time on Boxing Day.
Australia have cruised through this series so far, and are favoured to stroll to another convincing win in Melbourne. The home side has won fifteen of the last eighteen tests at the venue and lost just the two - South Africa and England managed big wins in 2008 and 2010 respectively. We can't see England winning this test match, and historical context is just one factor in a list that is not great reading for the away side.
Placing a wager on Australia @ -228 is almost a guaranteed win here, and certainly our tip for the result. While the odds are quite short, you could certainly parlay this bet into any other matches you've got an eye on over the Christmas break. Below we explain why Australia will move to 4-0 in the 2017/18 Ashes once the Boxing Day test is complete.
Australia Are Yet To Play Their Best Cricket
It's true. Australia find themselves up 3-0 despite spells of inconsistent and ineffective play. David Warner is yet to score a hundred, and is not looking like producing the dominant performances we have come to expect from him over the years.
While he only got one opportunity in Perth, he ultimately failed to post a big score on a pitch that even Mitch Marsh and Dawid Malan managed to dominate on. His average of 49 for the series is hardly poor and sits just above his career mark of 48, but he is too good a batsman to be missing out against a weak English bowling attack. If he manages to stick around in Melbourne, Australia could once again post a total somewhere in the region of 600 like they did in Perth.
Usman Khawaja is another player who is struggling, with just 134 runs at 33.50 and could well be under more scrutiny if not for the fact that he is still averaging higher than nine Englishman. Peter Handscomb's poor form in the first two matches also shifted the spotlight, however now that Mitch Marsh has come into the side and scored a big hundred, Khawaja will need to get amongst the runs sooner rather than later.
It's hard to fault the bowling lineup considering they have taken the sixty wickets required with few problems, yet they have arguably been below their best in various stages. Josh Hazlewood started slowly before picking up the pace (and wickets) in the second and third tests, while Mitchell Starc has managed to pick up the most wickets in the series despite at times being erratic and ill-disciplined. If Australia can stay switched on for the entire test, we could be looking at an embarrasing scoreline in the fourth test.
Resting Starc Could Be Better For The Aussies
Mitchell Starc has been ruled out of the Boxing Day test due to a heel issue that was apparent in the third test. Jackson Bird is the likely replacement, and while that means losing one of the best bowlers in the world, it may provide an opportunity for Pat Cummins to take the new ball alongside Josh Hazlewood. This should be a scary prospect for the English openers.
Cummins has mostly occupied the role of 'workhorse' in an Australian team where Hazlewood and Starc are the frontline bowlers, meaning he has had to wait to get his hands on the ball. He has been instructed to tie up an end by bowling bouncers throughout the first three tests, which has left him as Australia's fourth-highest wicket taker, although bowling first up at the MCG will allow him to target the stumps. He should take a stack of poles in this test.
England Aren't Expected To Make Changes
Reports suggest that Alistair Cook will continue to open the batting for the English, despite being well and truly on the decline over the course of the series. The former captain has earned the right to bat out the summer considering he is the all-time leading run scorer for his country, but his series average of 13.83 is the lowest in the team aside from Stuart Broad and James Anderson.
While spin is not overly effective on Australian pitches, questions need to be asked about Moeen Ali's potential inclusion. Although normally handy with the bat, he has averaged less than 20 over the first three tests and his bowling figures for the series to date are 3/316. While throwing young leg-spinner Mason Crane to the wolves at the MCG may not be the best option, keeping Ali in the lineup isn't much better.
Stuart Broad is supposed to be a frontline bowler, and was certainly one of the best in the world in his prime, yet this version of Broad is the worst the world has ever seen. Broad has taken just five wickets throughout the series despite bowling 113 overs.
His failure to turn up would normally result in a change in personnel, but England simply don't have a viable alternative. Mark Wood is the only potential candidate, although he is expected to join the eleven only in the event that Craig Overton is forced out with a hairline rib fracture.
By entering the match with more or less the same lineup, England are almost certainly doomed to failure once more in the fourth test. Australia will be hungry for the 5-0 whitewash now that they are in a great position to obtain it, and it is just so unlikely that the result will be anything other than a comprehensive victory to the home team.
Steve Smith vs Joe Root
We should probably mention Steve Smith somewhere in this piece, and there's no better way to sum up the fortunes of the two teams than by comparing his series with that of England captain Joe Root. Smith has led from the front with a couple of majestic batting performances - his century at the 'Gabba was patient and his slowest ever, while the 239 he scored was brutally dominant, and turned the match completely after England won the toss and made 400.
Root, on the other hand, has done little to hurt the Australians. He has now had seven matches on Australian soil (that's fourteen innings) and he is yet to score a hundred. His average of 29.33 in this series is almost identical to the average he achieved four years ago, and his worrying century conversion rate has continued with another two scores between 50 and 100 on this tour.
Both captains have made good and bad decisions so far on this tour, but the best way to help your side win a test match is to perform as an individual, and only one of the two has successfully done that. At least Root has won the toss three times from three attempts...
What do you think will be the result of this test match? Are we right in our prediction? Do you think Australia will complete the 5-0 sweep of England? Join the conversation today on Facebook and stay tuned for more news on the Ashes series.
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