Lord's value lies with Watson

  • By: Dave Tickner (Twitter: @tickerscricket)
  • Last Updated: July 18 2013, 11:58 BST

Having tipped a 7/1 winner in the first Ashes Test, our Dave Tickner has a 10/1 pick for Thursday's second game at Lord's.

Shane Watson: Too big at 10/1 to be top Aussie bowler
Shane Watson: Too big at 10/1 to be top Aussie bowler

A quiet start to the Ashes series saw England beat Australia by 14 runs at Trent Bridge.

The match had enough incident, drama, twists, turns and controversies to fill a series, but there are still four more Tests to go (nine if you count the winter's reverse series).

For the neutral, you sense an Australia win would've been the better result for the spectacle.

The tourists are not as good as England and, for all the talk of pride at the way the competed and answered their critics, losing a match in which they had so many chances to win will hurt. Especially having got so close.

Another worry for Australia is that England have recently been at their most vulnerable early in series, highlighted again as a succession of poor shots on day one saw them 215 all out having won the toss in Nottingham on a flat pitch.

And, as a last niggle in the back of the mind, Australia - despite Stuart Broad's astonishing let-off - had by far the better of the dodgy decisions in the game. Had Ashton Agar not been inexplicably spared by the third umpire when stumped on six in the first innings, it's unlikely the Australians would have seen day four, never mind day five. Trott's second-innings dismissal was another huge moment that went - wrongly - Australia's way.

Ultimately, Australia gave all they had in Nottingham against opponents not quite at their best, had big decisions go their way and still couldn't get over the line.

England will undoubtedly improve, especially with the bat, but it's hard to see similar upturn in Australia's level of performance.

And sacked coach Mickey Arthur's Aus$4million compensation claim and various allegations aren't helpful either, although those thinking the side will fall apart in wake of these Mickey Leaks are probably off the mark.

Nothing Arthur has said will be news to those who matter - the players - and they were able to compete perfectly well in Nottingham when they knew these details even if we did not.

That said, it's an unwelcome distraction and a comfortable series win for England looks the likeliest result now.

Lord's hosts the second Test, and that offers some consolation for Australia. They have a better record at Lord's than any other away venue having won 14 and lost just six of 34 Tests there.

But how relevant is that ancient history? Surely far less relevant than England's thumping victory here four years ago, never mind the scars of Nottingham.

England are even money at Coral, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that price given that England have won seven of their last nine while only one of the last 10 Tests at HQ has been drawn.

With the weather still set fair, another dry pitch is likely to assist England's perceived advantage in the spin and reverse-swing departments and makes a positive result likely. England, to my mind, are more likely to win this game than not, so there's no reason to put you off a bet at the price available.

A better price, though, may be available for one of the players at the centre of Arthur's revelations. Shane Watson is 10/1 at Ladbrokes to be Australia's top bowler in the first innings, and that's a big enough price to put concerns about the soap opera that is his relationship with Clarke and others to one side.

Watson is often cast as a reluctant bowler, but he's an effective one. He only has three Test wickets at vast expense against England, but he bowled a ridiculously tight and tidy spell in the second innings at Trent Bridge and that consistent line and length could make him a handful at Lord's.

And we don't need to guess, either; he has already proved how effective he can be as a Test bowler at Lord's, in 2011 when he demolished Pakistan's lower middle-order with 5/40 to take his place on the neutral honours board.

While Watson is unlikely to find England's batsmen quite so accommodating and may not be his captain's favourite person, he could well have a big role to play with the ball in conditions that may suit.

There are undoubtedly downsides to the bet - chief among them the fact that if England bat as badly as they did in the first innings at Trent Bridge he won't get a chance - but these are more than offset by the price available. Watson may have only 62 wickets to his name, but they've come at a cost of only 30 apiece and when he gets among the wickets he often collects decent hauls.

Watson has a six-wicket haul to go with two other five-fers, a four and two threes. If conditions suit, as they should, he's not to be under-estimated. The price suggests the layers have done just that.

  • Posted at 1215 BST on 16/07/2013.