Friday, 13 July 2012 13:00
After the much maligned one day series between England and Australia, the big test of the summer has finally arrived for Andy Flower and his men in the shape of a three match test series against Graeme Smith’s South Africans. The introduction of test rankings has given this clash extra meaning with England in danger of losing their number one status at the hands of their closest rivals in the table.
Both sides are extremely evenly matched and that fact is shown in the betting ahead of the first game at the Kia Oval. Currently you can get best odds of 7/4 on and England win here with a choice of bookmakers including Ladbrokes and William Hill while a South African victory is priced at 29/10 with Bet365.
Betting on the draw is certainly worth considering, particularly if the weather plays a part and this outcome is priced at best odds of 6/4 with SkyBET.
South Africa’s preparations for this match were rocked by the news concerning wicket keeper Mark Boucher who was forced to return home after a freak eye injury, sustained in a warm up game against Somerset. Arguably, the side hasn’t been weakened by this unfortunate accident as the prolific run scorer AB De Villiers will take over from Boucher behind the stumps but some members of the squad were clearly distressed by the injury to their team mate.
Horrific though the incident was, the South Africans will need to put this out of their minds once they step on to the Oval field.
As for England, their selection issues are all positive ones with two positions in particular up for grabs. The selectors will have to decide between Jonny Bairstow and Ravi Bopara in the number 6 position while Tim Bresnan is under pressure from Steven Finn for the final seamer’s slot.
Traditionally, the Oval pitch has offered pace and bounces and has therefore been more suited to the faster bowlers. Currently however, the tracks aren’t quite so quick and help is there for both the spinners and the swing bowlers. Once again, both sides are so evenly matched in these departments that a result is difficult to call.
Overall, with strong batting line ups in both camps, together with the continued threat of rain disruptions, a draw looks a likely result and odds of 6/4 seem excellent value for this outcome.
There are also some good value options among the highest run scorers over the three games and the one that stands out for South Africa is Hashim Amla. The patient Amla has the temperament to compile big scores and although he is the favourite at 7/2 with Ladbrokes, I would still take those odds.
For England, Stan James has Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen all at 4/1 and they are tough to choose from but I would back Trott to return to form and top England’s run charts in this series.