It’s No-betsember for me, so I won’t be placing any wagers for the rest of the year. However, the Ashes starts this week and by my reckoning there’s value to be had. So, if you’re not on a fruitless one-man crusade to teach the gambling giants a festive lesson, here are a few tips for you.
I’ve followed cricket closely since about 1990 and England’s progress has been fairly symmetrical over those 30 years. They were terrible in the early nineties, gradually reformed and improved to the point where they were good in 2005, and have now decayed back to being hopeless today.
If you arranged for the first England test team I ever watched to play the one I watched most recently, it would be a wonderfully even clash of talented underachievers. The modern-day team might sneak it just because they haven’t had fifteen pints the night before the match.
All this is to say that Australia are going to win the series. I’d go as far as to say they will win comfortably, but they’re one of the worst Australian sides in living memory. That sounds promising for England, but bear in mind that for most of living memory they have been exceptionally good.
The bookies have Australia odds-on at 1-3, and that poses a betting quandary for me. On one side, it is pretty much free money, and if you could get 33% interest at the bank then you’d be rich pretty quickly. However, it’s too short a price to be any fun. Above all, betting should be enjoyable and ‘risking’ £3 to win £1 is not.
The best value option for me therefore, is the 5-0 scoreline which will get you 9-1. That has happened twice in the last four series in Australia, so it isn’t remotely far-fetched. They are better in pretty much every department and have home advantage.
I’ve seen some media coverage suggesting that there is turmoil in Ozzie squad around their captain Tim ‘Dick Pic’ Paine resigning three weeks before the series. I don’t buy it for a second. He was only ever a stabilising stop-gap captain, and not a particularly good one. He was also the oldest and weakest link in the team, so if anything they’ve just got stronger.
Looking around the individual bets, there are a few little tempters. The top batsmen candidates are obvious, but I’ll rule out Joe Root. I hope he makes me regret it, but in his two previous visits he’s been mediocre with no hundreds in nine tests. That suggests the fast, bouncy conditions just don’t suit him.
The favourite in the market is Steve Smith but he wasn’t in particularly good nick during the T20 World Cup, so he’s bad value at 2-1. Labuschagne and Warner have similarly strong records to Smith at home so look marginally profitable at 4-1. The latter was in good form during the T20 World Cup, so I’d probably go for him and then hate myself for it.
Just as an interesting wildcard, I’d be tempted to dabble on Cameron Green. He’s guaranteed his place in the top 6 of the Australian starting XI for the first test and averages over 50 in domestic cricket. He’s unlikely to be top scorer, but at 33-1 he offers juicy value. The added emotional benefit is that he can’t possibly be as big an #rsehole as Little Dave Warner.
I can’t envisage any England player outscoring the Aussies, but you can back someone to lead the team. Rory Burns at 7-1 and Jos Buttler at 12-1 aren’t terrible deals. Over the course of five quick matches, it’s hard to imagine either being dropped and both have shown a glimmer of ability at this level. Buttler bats low but is theoretically in great form.
Bowling-wise I think the bookies have mostly got it right. Josh Hazelwood is super dependable and will take the new ball, so 11-4 to be the best Aussie is possible good value. None of the others stand out at all.
In the England camp, there was a clear mis-pricing that seems to have been corrected. Ollie Robinson was 7-1 to lead the way for England after a summer in which he was the obvious standout. If you can overlook some adolescent racism, he’s still decent value at 5-1. Robinson isn’t the quickest but that doesn’t matter nearly as much as the pundits suggest. Glenn McGrath was an angry dibbly-dobbler and he did pretty well.
The bookies are clearly overvaluing the fragile Jimmy Anderson and the often-rested Stuart Broad, whilst also forgetting that they’re both historically rubbish Down Under. Maybe Ollie Robinson isn’t in line to play every test, but that would be a poor decision by England management. He’s earned the right to have first crack at those floppy green hatted b#stards.
Finally, as this is clearly a tipster piece, and that is out of character, here are some additional bits of Responsible Gambling advice:
If you don’t care about cricket at all, or care loads about it, then don’t bet. Having a punt won’t enhance your enjoyment of the series either way.
Don’t bet more than a tenner on anything unless you’re actually rich. A tenner should be enough to get the juices flowing without causing you any sleepless nights. Although if you’re going to stay up and watch you’ll be sleepless anyway.
Never cash out in play. While the game is on, focus on enjoying it, not the money you stand to win. Besides, if you took the odds, it’s because you were happy with them – don’t settle for a worse deal just because you might miss out on a small profit. Cashing out will cost you 10-20% of the expected value of the bet, so the bookies are the real winner.
Enjoy the ride. Win or lose, remember the highs you had cheering for your chosen team/player. That’s where the real value for money is.