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  • Andrew Cork

Cricket


The home test match season starts today with England facing Sri Lanka at Headingly (Leeds) in the first of a three match series.

The weather can play a major role in the outcome of these matches and the Met Office forecast for the next five days is:

Thursday – mainly dry and cloudy, some rain late afternoon

Friday – mainly dry and cloudy, some rain am

Saturday – dry am, sunshine and showers pm

Sunday – sunshine and heavy showers all day

Monday – sunshine and heavy showers

The teams will be chosen from the following squads:

England:

Cook (Captain), Ali, Anderson, Bairstow, Ball, Broad, Compton, Finn, Hales, Root, Stokes, Vince

Sri Lanka:

Mathews (Captain), Chandimal, Chameera, de Silva, Dickwella, Eranga, Herath, Karunaratne,

Lakmal, Mendis, Perera, Pradeep, Shanaka, Silva, Siriwardana, Thirimanne,

The current match odds available with the betting exchanges are:

England – 1.45

Sri Lanka – 13.0

Draw – 4.1

Two years ago at Headingley, Sri Lanka beat England by 100 runs in the final over of a pulsating test match. Add to that, England have lost four of their last six test matches in God’s county of Yorkshire and you may be asking yourself why Sri Lanka are huge 12/1 outsiders in this match. In addition, England are still a long way from sorting out their top order with too much reliance still placed on Messrs Root and Cook.

However, the reason lies much more with what Sri Lanka are bringing to the table for this series. They have lost two world class iconic batsmen, Jayawardene and Sangakkara to retirement and their main strike bowler, Prasad, who engineered the 2014 win, is sidelined through injury.

The question is: can Mathews’s team of young promising players score enough runs in what is very likely to be bowler-friendly conditions to put pressure on England’s line-up? The answer has to be very unlikely but, in reverse, England’s top order does not inspire huge confidence as both hales and Compton are vulnerable against the moving ball and have not shown any consistency in this form of the game.

All in all, all the factors point to a result. Headingly definitely offers a result pitch with just one draw in the last 16 matches and that (in 2012 v South Africa) was a very exciting close affair with 13 wickets lost on the last day. The infuriating problem is the weather. If it is as predicted then can England get into a winning position in the time available? You can envisage scenarios where this could happen ie Sri Lanka bat first and are bowled out cheaply as occurred when Australia were steamrollered by Broad at Trent Bridge.

I do believe this could happen and I would imagine Cook will insert the tourists if he wins the toss but, at odds of around 1/2, this looks insufficient reward for the risk. So do we risk all on the weather forecast and go for a draw at 3/1? Again, the odds look too short. I have effectively bet on the weather in cricket beforehand and got my fingers very well burnt.

I cannot, therefore, see any value in the match betting. For those of you keen to have an interest in the match then I would be looking at the first innings top scorer markets.

For England, Bairstow looks value at the 14/1 offered by Ladbrokes. He is in great form and Headingley is his low ground. Yes he bats low in the order but this could be a low scoring affair and he can marshall a very competent lower order if the top batters do not deliver.

For Sri Lanka, I like the captain, Mathews, at 7/2 with Betway. He scored extremely well here in the last test series and has the mental toughness to hold his side together if wickets are falling at the other end.


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