The series might be wrapped up, but England’s decision to rest three key players for the third and final ODI against the West Indies has caused no end of debate. The match at Headingley should (if the weather gods are kind, although if we’re honest it’s not looking good) offer a fascinating insight into both England’s strength in depth and the future of the international game – with schedules packed ever tighter, is rotation simply something we must accept? Betfair’s Ed Hawkins, SJA Betting Writer of the Year, takes a look at the upcoming match and reckons that the change in personnel means that the smart money is on the Windies.
It’s all change for Alastair Cook’s side. England are set to continue a rotation policy having wrapped up the series with victory at a sombre Kia Oval on Tuesday. Out go Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann and Tim Bresnan, rested for greater challenges to come, and the door opens for Stuart Meaker, James Tredwell and Chris Woakes.
It is an understandable move by the England management. Those three players who have been told to put their feet up are the only first-choice players in all three formats of the game. Still, that is not relevant to our task of wagering. Unquestionably England are weaker without the trio.
Samit Patel will be mightily disappointed if he does not replace Swann given that he was named in the original squad. Meaker will probably play too, although Jade Dernbach, who left the squad following the death of Surrey team-mate Tom Maynard, is now available.
A little more backbone would be nice from West Indies. They got off to a terrific start at The Oval thanks to Chris Gayle’s penchant for smashing the ball absolutely miles, but when he was out in what he seemingly deemed controversial circumstances they decided to feel sorry for themselves.
From 63-0 they crumbled to 79-4. It is just not good enough and one feels loathe to trust them when they are capable of being so brittle.
In terms of personnel it might not be a bad idea if they gave Fidel Edwards, the pace bowler, a go. He has been bowling during the innings break in these matches and in the nets and looks fit.
Venue and conditions
The Headingley surface, slowly but surely, has got better over the years. The first innings average in the last 10 years (nine completed matches) is 261. Healthy. Indeed, the last five totals read: 309, 294, 275, 324 and 321.
It is as important to look up as it is down when in Leeds, however. If the sun is shining batting is much easier. Unfortunately light rain and showers are forecast throughout the day. It puts us off getting long of first-innings runs at the 250 mark. And we could be in a right pickle if West Indies batted first.
Okay, okay. One last chance. But it is the value that dictates rather than some forlorn hope that West Indies have suddenly morphed into a superior unit.
West Indies are 2.22 to end the series on a high and by Jove England are giving them as much assistance as possible by resting three key men. We should not expect West Indies to stroll this – far from it – but the hosts are surely not good enough to rest such important players.
Consider that England, with their star trio, were 1.79 for game two and it is crystal clear the prices for this contest are a rick.
Of course Gayle is absolutely key and our heart will sink faster than the sun in Yorkshire if he is dimissed cheaply. But his form in south London suggests that might be a little irrational.
Top England batsman
Of the England players avilable for this match, two have recent form at the venue. Eoin Morgan and Jonathan Trott scored half-centuries against Sri Lanka and Pakistan respectively in the last two years. Ian Bell and Alastair Cook are in bottle-it-sell-it form, though and will probably go off no bigger than 4.00 the pair.
Top West Indies batsman
Retain trust in Gayle. He is seeing it like a beach ball and there will be a determination for runs after he felt he was harshly treated at The Oval. No bigger than 3.75 though, folks.