Is it the right call to bring Alex Hales back for Ashes tour?

The name of Alex Hales has been mentioned and strongly linked to a place in the upcoming Ashes squad announcement, and his innings on Saturday in the T20 against West Indies, was a timely reminder for the selectors of just what he is capable off.

Hales was by far the most impressive of the England batsmen, top scoring with 43 runs in England’s 21 run defeat, and not only was he England’s best batsman, he was the only English batsman who was able to handle the conditions.

Yes, this was only a T20 fixture, not an Ashes Test match, I get that, but the point is just how comfortable Hales now looks at international level, so why can’t he take that into red ball cricket?

When Hales was last in the England Test team, he was still finding his way in international cricket, and he wasn’t too assured in any format.

Now he has the presence of a man who knows he belongs at international level, and his white ball form has shown that over the last 12 to 18 months, where alongside Joe Root, he has been England’s best batsman.

I believe the time is right for a Test recall for Hales, and I hope he is included in the upcoming squad. Lets be honest about things, he can’t really do any worse than a lot of the players who have been playing at 2, 4, and 5, for England recently, so he certainly won’t be weakening the squad, and if he does come off, he can be destructive and a possible match winner.

I would like to see the Nottinghamshire man in the middle order batting at No.5, with one of Root and Malan at numbers 3 and 4 respectively (or the other way round if Joe insists on batting 4 still).

In Ashes Betting Australia are still odds on favourites at 4/7. A drawn series is 6/1, with England at 5/2, all odds with bet365 (Welcome Bonus up to £200 here) and correct at the time of writing.

England v West Indies Test Series Betting

If the bookmakers are to be believed, West Indies are set to be trounced by a resurgent England in the forthcoming three-Test series, set to begin at Edgbaston on 17 August and followed by matches at Headingley (25 August) and Lord’s (7 September).

Despite a collapse in the second Test at Trent Bridge, England’s recent comprehensive 3-1 series win over South Africa produced a number of stand-out performances, and the side would now seem to be packed with buccaneering all-rounders for the first time in a long time — if ever. As a result of the series win, England cricket is on a high and odds on the forthcoming Ashes series show the punters are getting back on board too.

Against South Africa, Moeen Ali had one of the best sustained performances of his career, taking 25 wickets at 15.64, making him the leading wicket taker for the series, and scoring 252 runs at 36.00 with two fifties. Fellow all-rounder Ben Stokes also made a formidable contribution, scoring 299 runs at 37.37, including a highest score of 112 and two fifties, and taking 7 wickets at 43.00.

Other England performances across the South Africa series also suggest that the hosts are going to have too much firepower for the Windies with both bat and ball: new skipper Joe Root finished his first series in charge with 461 runs at 57.62, with 1 ton and 3 fifties; Johnny Bairstow found some form, scoring 330 runs at 41.25 with 3 fifties, including a memorable 99 in the last Test; and Alastair Cook was Alastair Cook, his 268 runs coming at 33.50 with two half-centuries.

Stand out performers with the ball (apart form Moeen) were: Jimmy Anderson (as to be expected), with 20 wickets at 14.10 (best 7/54); new boy Toby Roland-Jones, who took 10 wickets at 22.20 (including a 5-wicket haul on debut); and Stuart Broad, who chipped in with 11 wickets at 32.00, with a best of 3/46.

West Indies, on the other hand, come into the series without showing any particularly impressive form in its lead-up matches, finishing with draws against Essex and Kent (with a match against Derbyshire to come). Several batsmen managed to get starts against the County attacks without going on with it: skipper Kraigg Brathwaite scored 61 in the first innings against Essex (but followed this up with scores of 2, 8 and 0); Jermaine Blackwood produced a fifty in each match; while Roston Chase was impressive in his 81 in the first innings against Essex, which he followed up with 50* in the second dig (he didn’t play in the Kent match).

It’s been said many times before, of course, but West Indies bowling attacks of today have none of the penetration and ferocity of their illustrious predecessors, and there would seem at this stage to be little in their bowling line-up to worry the England batsmen. Nevertheless, Kemar Roach took 5/43 off 18 overs against Kent, while Alzarri Joseph picked up 4/72 off 22 overs in the same match.

Form alone coming into the First Test at Edgbaston would therefore seem to point to a comprehensive England win, and a quick troll through some of the major bookmakers profiled on the comparison site Playright would seem to back this up. 1/4 at SkyBet are currently the best odds you can get on an England win in the First Test, with a best price for the draw of 5/1 at SkyBet, William Hill, BetFred and PaddyPower.

If you do fancy a punt on the Windies coming out on top at Edgbaston, you can currently get 14/1 at BetFred, or 12/1 at William Hill, PaddyPower and 21Bet.

Bet365 also has a market in place for the overall series result (an England 3-0 win is currently 8/13). Given the fact that the series is being played so late in the summer, the possibility of all three Tests being drawn due to rain is not entirely out of the question, so the odds of 100/1 for a 0-0 series result could be the best value bet of the summer, and one that’s definitely worth having a tenner on!

England set to play 3 spinners in Chittagong

Could it be that our eyes are set to deceive us and England are on the verge of playing three spinners in a Test match?

Usually when England tour the sub-continent, they take three spinners in the squad. Then in the first test they play only one of them, along with three seamers. England then usually fold like a pack of cards when their opponents – who have packed their side with three spinners – rip through the English batting line up twice.

Then what follows is another hammering, this time from the media, for England having been too cautious and afraid to break from the norm. Then common sense prevails, and England play two spinners for the remainder of the series (having already gifted their opponents a 1-0 lead).

All of that looks set to change when the first test between Bangladesh and England starts in Chittagong on Thursday morning, as England look set to go into the first test with not just two spinners on show, but three.

Yes, this is the new positive England, ready to give anything a go, and this means that they are likely to play Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid, and one of either Gareth Batty, or Zafar Ansari – I’m guessing Batty will get the start.

Now lets not get too carried away by this sudden break from the norm of negativity from England, as a few stars have had to align for this unique situation to be able to occur. Unlike a lot of previous English teams, England have an all rounder at 6, rather than just an out and out batsman. This immediately frees up a seam bowling spot for an extra spinner on the sub continent.

Then there is the injury to James Anderson, which takes away an awkward decision from England’s selection panel. Going into the series, Anderson, Broad and Stokes would have been nailed on to start the first test. So that would have meant either dropping England’s man of the summer Chris Woakes, or just playing two spinners. Now I wonder what decision England would have gone with there?

Even the failure of James Vince in the summer seems to have helped England, as that means there is a spot free in the middle order for Moeen Ali to walk into, freeing up another spot in the lower order.

Ali found some form with the bat for England last summer, and he is a decent player of spin, so England will either move him into the top 6, or promote Jonny Bairstow up the order, and bat Ali at 7. Personally, I believe giving Ali some responsibility in the top 6 is no bad thing.

The test match starts at 5am (UK time), and is live on Sky Sports. In the cricket betting, England start the match at a very short looking 8/13 favourites. The draw is 5/2, and Bangladesh are 13/2.

England’s top batsman betting (for 1st Test) sees Joe Root as the 5/2 favourite with most layers. With Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes, both 7/2 joint favourites to be the top Bangladeshi batsman.

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England odds on favourites in cricket betting to beat Pakistan in opening ODI

England have named a 15 man squad to take on Pakistan in the upcoming ODI series, and the it sees a welcome return for Durham paceman, Mark Wood.

Wood is joined back in the squad by Durham team mate Ben Stokes, who is expected to start the series as a batsman only, and Liam Dawson is also in. Out go the injured Steven Finn, and batsman James Vince.

It can’t come as any real surprise to see Vince miss out, and I would fully expect to see him jettisoned from the Test team as well. He looks to have plenty of talent, but I would imagine he will be sent back to his county with a message to tighten up his technique, and then maybe he will be considered for the national side again.

His Hampshire team mate Liam Dawson is in though, and personally, I believe this selection could be with a view to seeing him getting picked for the Test team.

Dawson looks and sounds like the closest thing England have to what Graeme Swann gave them, and he seems to be the type of bowler the England hierarchy are craving.

The England squad in full to take on Pakistan is Eoin Morgan (captain), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Liam Dawson, Chris Jordan, Alex Hales, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.

In the cricket betting, England are odds on favourites to win the 1st ODI, taking place on Wednesday 24th August. Eoin Morgan’s side are 4/9 to win the day/nighter from the Rose Bowl, with Pakistan coming in at 7/4.

Don’t forget with this being a 50 Over match, that there is only two outcomes with the bookmakers, win or lose. What this means is if the two sides end up with the same amount of runs, different bookmakers may have different interpretations of the result.

Some might call it a dead heat, while some might have another method for deciding the winner. It’s worth checking the terms and conditions of your particular bookmaker, to make sure you don’t get caught out.

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England favourites in the betting to make it 2-1 at Edgbaston

Despite the loss of Ben Stokes, England still go into the 3rd Test at Edgbaston in Birmingham as heavy odds on favourites.

The bookies make England a best price of 4/6 to win the 3rd Test and ensure that Alastair Cook’s men can’t lose the series. The draw is coming in at around 3/1, and a Pakistan victory at 9/2.

The hosts levelled the series in Manchester last week with a comprehensive 330 run win, to go into this weeks contest with the (best of 4) series all square at 1-1.

England will no doubt miss Stokes, abut his absence won’t upset the balance of the side too much, given the all round form of Warwickshire’s Chris Woakes.

Woakes is in the form of his life, and now totally looks at home at international level. He is currently streets ahead in the wicket taking charts in this series, with 18 wickets. Only Pakistan’s Yasir Shah is in double figures, he has 11 victims, with Stuart Broad and Moeen next with 7 wickets.

This just goes to underline the fact that Woakes has been the stand out performer for England all summer, and just why it took Alastair Cook so long to bowl him at Old Trafford in the Pakistani second innings is anyone’s guess. I would have thought he would be the go-to man if you’re looking for a wicket at the moment.

Woakes is currently vying for favouritism with Jimmy Anderson in the betting for top bowler in the 3rd Test, both can be backed at around 5/2 to 3/1 to be England’s leading wicket taker in this match. Top Batsman Betting in this match for England, is unsurprisingly Joe Root, at a best price of 5/2.

Pakistan shouldn’t be dismissed too lightly ahead of this match though. Edgbaston is well known for being receptive to spin, and with Yasir Shah in their ranks, Pakistan are well represented in that department.

Shah is as short as 2/1 with some bookies to be top Pakistani bowler in Wednesday’s Test, with Misbah and Azhar Ali joint favourites to be top batsman for the visitors.

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England cut to win World T20 after record breaking win over South Africa

After their record breaking win over South Africa last week, England will be looking to consolidate their position in Group 1 when they take on Afghanistan in Delhi on Wednesday.

Eoin Morgan’s team were in serious trouble at the half way stage when South Africa amassed 229/4 in their innings, and with a second defeat in the group stages looming, England were on the verge of needing to reply on other results after only their second group match (having already lost their opening fixture to West Indies).

That was until they produced a sensational run chase, and not only won their first match of the 2016 tournament, but also sent out a serious message to the rest of the cricketing world that England are a dangerous side, that finally have to be respected (at long last).

After their first match defeat at the hands of Chris Gayle and West Indies, England had drifted out to double figures (around 14/1) to win the tournament. Now Paddy Power have them back in at 13/2 (still only fifth favourites).

The comeback on Friday was mainly down to the excellence of Joe Root – who surely now has made a valid case to be regarded as the best all round batsman in world cricket – and the explosive start produced by Alex Hales (17 off 7 balls) and predominately Jason Roy (43 runs off 16 balls).

Then it was the Joe Root show. The Yorkshireman was sublime, creaming the South African attack to all parts of the Wankhede Stadium, scoring his 83 runs off 44 balls, at a strike rate of 188.63, with six 4s and four 6s in his Man Of The Match winning knock. Root is now as short as 4/9 to be England’s top run scorer at the tournament.

West Indies look all but assured of a place in the semi-finals after just two matches (they have already beat England and Sri Lanka). Their remaining fixtures are against South Africa on Friday, and if they don’t secure qualification there, they will no doubt complete the job when they take on Afghanistan on Sunday 27th in Nagpur.

The final spot out of Group 1 seems to be a straight shoot out between England, South Africa and Sri Lanka, with Afghanistan already looking like the group’s whipping boys with two defeats from two matches so far.

England should have 4 points (assuming they beat Afghanistan) by the time they take on Sri Lanka, which will make it a must win game for Angelo Matthews’ team if they want to stay in competition.

Even if they do go on to win that match, they will then play South Africa in their final group game, meaning the defending champions will have to do things the hard way if they are to even make it past the group stages. Sri Lanka are currently 66/1 in the World T20 betting to defend the trophy and win the 2016 World T20.

Steve Smith Total Ashes Series Run Spread

The Ashes is upon us, with the 1st Test starting at Cardiff’s Sophia Garden/Swalec Stadium tomorrow (Wednesday 8th July).

Australia’s Steven Smith will be looking to continue his remarkable run of form throughout the Ashes. A run which effectively started at the Oval back in 2013, when Smith scored his first century for Australia, and which has culminated (so far) with him becoming the World Number 1 ranked Test batsman.

Smith is favourite to be top Ashes run scorer, and obviously that makes him favourite to be the top Aussie run scorer. To top the overall Ashes series run scorer charts, Smith is a best price of 4/1 with Betvictor.

While to be the top Australian Ashes batsman, Steve Smith is a best price of 9/4 with bet365 (you can open a bet365 account here and claim a £200.00 Welcome Bonus).

Personally, I don’t think Smith can continue this form for much longer. He has just been promoted to Number 3 in Australia’s Test side, and with the possibility of him coming in early on in English conditions, I believe he might find the swinging Dukes ball not to his liking.

Steve Smith’s Ashes run spread with Sporting Index, is to Sell at 445, and Buy at 465, that means he would have to score (on average) around 45 runs every time he bats, assuming he bats 10 times (if you haven’t got a Sporting Index account, you can open one here and claim their £100 Welcome Package).

Coming in at Number 3, whether Australia dominate the series or not, it is pretty much a certainty that Smith will bat twice in all 5 Test matches. Depending on match situations, in the 2nd innings he will either be batting properly to possibly save a Test match, throwing the bat Warner style to set a target (like in most of the last Ashes series in Australia), or chasing a small target to win a Test match.

So unless it is a scenario where Australia are chasing a very small target to win a Test match, it looks like Smith will at least have the opportunity to fill his boots every time he bats.

I think it would take a brave punter to Buy Steve Smith’s runs at 465. I would probably leave this one, but if pushed to make a call, I think I would be selling Steve Smith’s runs at that particular spread.

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Josh Hazelwood Top Ashes Bowler Betting

Most of the attention seems to be focused around Mitchell’s Starc and Johnson, but sneaking in slightly under the radar is Australia’s latest fast bowling sensation, Josh Hazelwood.

A few weeks back, before the Australia tour of West Indies to be precise, most observers were of the opinion that Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, and one off Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle, or James Pattinson would make up the three man seam attack in England, but the arrival of Hazelwood on the scene has totally blown that belief out of the water (Pattinson didn’t even make the Ashes squad).

Hazelwood made his Test debut against India late last year. He has only played in 5 Test matches to date, taking 24 wickets at an impressive 19.08. Such is the impact he has already made, there is already talk that the pace trio for Cardiff will be Hazelwood, Starc, and one other, suggesting that Hazelwood has already overtaken Mitchell Johnson in the pecking order.

This doesn’t seem to be totally lost on the bookies in the top Australian Ashes bowler betting. They are obviously expecting a close contest between the three, as they make Mitchell Johnson the 3/1 favourite, with Starc at 10/3, and Josh Hazelwood a close third at 4/1 with bet365.

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In the overall Top Ashes Bowler Betting, Hazelwood is fourth favourite at a best price of 15/2 with Stan James, with only England’s Jimmy Anderson breaking up the Aussie trio in the betting.

Hazelwood is also regarded as the most ‘English type bowler’ in the Aussie ranks, which also adds to the belief that he is a serious contender to take a glut of English wickets this summer.

Personally, I believe if Josh Hazelwood takes more wickets than Johnson or Starc, he will probably also be ahead of Jimmy Anderson and any of the other English contingent. This makes the 15/2 available in the Top Ashes Wicket Taker Betting, a better value bet.

Gillespie still favourite for England job, despite latest ECB fiasco

The cats finally out of the bag, as a combination of Michael Vaughan been interrogated on BBC 5Live and an ECB leak to the Mirror’s Dean Wilson, have all but confirmed Alastair Cook put the block on any potential Kevin Pietersen return to the England Test team.

While on 5 Live’s Tuffers and Vaughan show on Tuesday night and under heavy questioning from presenter Mark Chapman, Vaughan finally admitted that during his conversations with Tom Harrison about potentially becoming England’s new Director of Cricket, that it would be a discussion he would need to have with the current captain (rather than Harrison) if he wished to recall Kevin Pietersen at any stage.

That confirmed to me that Cook was the real reason behind Pietersen’s omission. Then if any further evidence was required, it emerged on Thursday when Dean Wilson reported that Cook has issued a ‘Me or Im’ ultimatum to the ECB, and that the ECB had felt they had no option but to back Cook for the time being.

This can be further backed up by the fact that Strauss admitted that beyond this summer who knows what might happen regarding Pietersen playing for England again, suggesting that Cook might not be in the job for much longer, and if this situation arises, all bets are off and Cook’s Pietersen veto would be in the past.

If you interpret things this way, it is hardly a ringing endorsement for Cook as a Captain from his bosses, but it all adds up.

I personally think this Pietersen issue is far from over. If he keeps his own and Piers Morgan’s mouth shut (a very big if), keeps his head down and continues to score runs, then I can see him back in the England fold if Jason Gillespie takes over.

All this uncertainty doesn’t seem to have made much change in the betting for the next England coach, as Jason Gillespie still heads the betting at 6/4. This is despite reservations from the likes of Matthew Hayden and Yorkshire Captain, Andrew Gale, who both suggested that as his own man, Gillespie might not be interested in a job that come with preconditions attached.

And added to that, who knows if Gillespie would want to work with a captain like Cook anyway? Given his Yorkshire connections, and his known preference for attack minded cricket, Gillespie might insist on Joe Root being England captain instead, thus reopening the door to Pietersen, and yet another humiliating u-turn by the ECB – now who could see that coming?

The bookmakers currently offering 6/4 on Gillespie to be next England cricket coach are bet365 and Ladbrokes (both bookmakers who’s free bets can be used to make risk free money using the Profit Maximiser service). Also making Gillespie favourite are Paddy Power at 5/4, and Betfred at 11/8.

Next in the betting comes Justin Langer at 5/1 with Totepool and Betfred, with Paul Farbrace at 6/1.

If you are considering a bet on this market, it could be worth deciding whether you believe the ECB want a ‘yes’ man, or whether they are prepared to be bold and go for a coach who will probably want full control?

England take on New Zealand in a two Test series starting at Lord’s on Thursday (21st May). England are currently 6/4 to win the 1st Test, with the draw at 2/1, and the Black Caps are 12/5 to get the series off to a winning start.

New ECB low in handling of Peter Moores’ Sacking

Before moving onto the issues of who will be the Next England Cricket Coach, I’d just like to say that I believe the handling of Peter Moores’ sacking – in my opinion – was an absolute disgrace, and I couldn’t agree any more with Michael Vaughan’s take on this issue.

Whether you rate Moores or not, he didn’t deserve to be sitting on the balcony/in the dressing room at Malahide while news was circulating of his sacking to all and sundry. Just imagine how this must have felt for – what seems on the surface – a thoroughly decent man to get news, probably from his agent, that his sacking was imminent, while he was still in charge of the team at a game? It’s absolutely disgusting, and this sort of behaviour from the ECB has to change.

It’s also interesting to see that outspoken critics of Moores’ such as Pietersen and Boycott, alongside supporters such as Andrew Flintoff, seem to be queuing up to condemn the ECB’s handling of the whole affair.

Over the last 18 months we have had the Pietersen affair, when news leaked out he would be sacked, followed by numerous subsequent leaks. Then we had the sacking of Alastair Cook as ODI captain, another badly handled affair in which the player found out first through the media, and now this latest sorry affair regarding Peter Moores.

I know it is probably hard to always keep these things under cover, but it is only a handful of people making these decisions, so why is the media always all over this information long before the individuals in question are informed?

Some might deem it good journalism, some might think it’s a hell of coincidence. I firmly stand on the side of the latter. Is having a mate/contact on the inside tipping you off now regarded as good journalism? Probably, in the eyes of some journalists!

I hope things improve under the Colin Groves regime. He is spoken off in very high regard by people who know him and who have worked with him, and whatever I think of how the decisions have come about, he seems to be making the required changes on the cricketing side of things.

Things have got off to an indifferent start for Graves though. For any positives on the cricketing front, there have also been the negatives of the West Indies comments, followed by the poor handling of Moores’ sacking. In fairness to Graves, he has barely got his feet under the table though, but when he starts the job and has full control, I hope he gets a full grip of these types of issues.

With a vacancy for a new English cricket coach again, it will be interesting to see what develops from here. Most observers seem to be suggesting that nothing much will change under Strauss, and that any chance of a Pietersen comeback is now dead.

I’m not so sure though, can you really see Jason Gillespie or Justin Langer being told who they can and cannot select? I can’t.

At the moment, Jason Gillespie is the 6/4 favourite with bet365 (more info on bet365 offers for new customers here), followed by Justin Langer at 3/1, and Paul Farbrace at 11/2.

The next coach selection will go a long way to showing what the real intentions are. If it is a safe selection with others pulling the strings in the background (ie you can have the job, but you can’t pick these guys) then it will show nothing is really changing.

Or will it be a bold selection, where a new coach will come in and totally change the dynamics, doing things his way, and making his own decisions? Only time will tell.