International Test Match cricket resumes action in the UK this week when England welcome West Indies to the Ageas Bowl in Southampton for the first of a three-match series.
It will be Test cricket, but not quite as we have understood it in the past.
For starters, there will be no crowds, as the games must be played behind closed doors in order to meet government regulations around the Coivd-19 pandemic, which has caused such havoc for many sports across the world.
There are a number of factors that come into play when betting on this series that make it a little different to the Test Match cricket that you might have bet on in the past.
For starters, the lack of a crowd may well affect how the game goes. Players respond to the pressure of a crowd in different ways.
Bowlers in particular thrive on the extra intimidation that a home crowd, especially in England, can bring.
There will be none of that passion around on Wednesday, which will make things a little easier for the batsmen.
Betway are not backing the West Indies batsmen to cope especially well with the England attack, it has to be said.
The top five players to score more than 50 runs in the first innings on Wednesday, in terms of odds at Betway, are all English.
Shai Hope is the first West Indian, with odds of 5/2. If the West Indies win the toss and bat first, we would back him at that price to score 50 or more.
All-rounder Ben Stokes is set to captain England on Wednesday. Captaincy has sometimes not sat well on the shoulders of England all-rounders with big personalities in the past.
Cricket fans of a certain age will recall how the role suppressed the talents of Ian Botham in 1981, while Andrew Flintoff never managed to translate his awesome individual talent into successful captaincy.
It remains to be seen how Stokes copes with captaincy, though the pressure will surely be reduced with there being no crowd.
Betway have him priced at 6/4 to score 50 or more runs in the first innings, with him at 11/2 to be England’s top bowler in the first innings.
One major change to how the game is played revolves around the use of saliva.
Spit has been the go-to method of players who want to shine the ball and make it swing more since time immemorial in cricket.
ICC regulations around Covid-19 mean that players are now prevented from using saliva to shine the ball, and must use only sweat instead.
That restriction on the use of saliva could affect how the England bowlers perform. England's main strike weapon is aging warhorse James Anderson, who has taken most of his 584 Test wickets thanks to his ability to swing the ball.
Swing bowling, and reverse swing bowling, works best when a bowler and his team-mates can shine the ball prodigiously, using spit.
The major challenge that overseas batsmen face in England is the swinging ball. Anything that even marginally reduces that challenge will give a boost to the West Indies batters.
Kraigg Brathwaite is priced at 15/2 at Betway to be the best batsman in the match. That looks like a good bet, given that England’s swing bowlers might not be able to get as much movement on the ball.
Betway have some other interesting odds on offer. The price of 5/1 on the match being a draw looks particularly tempting.
We think that this might be a good bet given how rusty both sets of players are likely to be, as well as the unusual circumstances surrounding the staging of the match.
If you fancy England to win, then you can back the home side at 30/100 on the 1X2 market, while the West Indies are priced at 6/1.
Given the strange circumstances of the match, and the potential blunting of England’s ability to swing the ball due to the ban on saliva odds of 5/1 on the draw look the best bet to us out of those.
You might also find some good value on the individual player markets. Jofra Archer is sure to be the focus of much media attention, given his West Indian birth and upbringing.
After performing well in last week’s practice matches, it looks as though Archer will provide a two-pronged pace attack in tandem with Mark Wood in this week’s game.
The duo’s ability to bowl with outright speed will complement Anderson’s guile and experience nicely.
Archer is 13/5 at Betway to be England’s top bowler in the first innings. Wood has odds of 3/1, while the veteran Anderson is priced at 9/4.
Anderson is priced at 3/1 to be the best bowler in the match, and given his experience it would be hard to spurn that bet.
But if the ball does not swing then it might be better to consider a punt on the keen newcomer Archer, who has odds of 100/30 to be the match’s best bowler.
Kemar Roach is rated as the West Indies bowler most likely to impress by Betway, who have him priced at 9/2 to be the best bowler in the match, the same odds as England’s Mark Wood.
Shannon Gabriel is priced at 6/1 and West Indies skipper Jason Holder has odds of 13/2 on the same market.
Betway have made England huge favourites to win the three-match series. The Second and Third Tests are set to take place at Old Trafford later this month.
England are 1/8 with Betway to win the series, with a drawn series priced at 15/2.
The West Indies are a long shot to win the series with Betway having them at 16/1.
You can get odds of 11/10 on England winning the series 3-0 or 9/4 on 2-0. A 1-1 draw in the series is priced at 8/1 and a 2-1 England win at 10/1.
If you fancy the Windies, then a 2-1 win for them in the series has odds of 22/1, and a 2-0 win is at 80/1.
We predict that England will win the series 2-0, with this First Test likely to be a draw.
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