Kumar can bowl bookies over
Our Dave Tickner feels Bhuvneshwar Kumar is the player to get with ahead of the third Test, which starts on Sunday.
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The England v India Test series continues its frenetic pace, the third game of the series getting under way on Sunday - less than a week after the second concluded. And in this series, that actually qualifies as a lengthy hiatus.
England have had decisions to make in those six days. They've not really done so. Matt Prior has admitted what was obvious to everyone watching: he's not fit enough to do his job. He goes out of the side, replaced behind the sticks by Jos Buttler.
Other than that, though, England's only response has been to cut Lancashire spinner Simon Kerrigan from the squad.
Alastair Cook remains captain despite a run of seven defeats in nine games and a batting average of just 14.33 this summer. It's hard to imagine he would still be in charge had the ECB not made such massive sacrifices to back him after the winter hammering in Australia.
Can Cook and England turn things round at the Rose Bowl? It's possible, but not particularly appealing as a betting proposition even at 7/4. The senior players are struggling, and it may be that either Stuart Broad or James Anderson is rested for this one due to their increasingly heavy workloads as leaders of this attack.
India look the value in the match betting at 12/5 given their ultimately emphatic victory at Lord's having lost a crucial toss in conditions supposedly ideally suited to their opponents. That India have batted better than England is not a huge surprise or disgrace.
What has been surprising has been the extent to which India's quicks have outbowled England's. They've been more consistent. They've bowled better lengths. They've had better plans.
The man at the forefront of this has been Bhuvneshwar Kumar and he's the man I'm building this preview around. He's been utterly sensational in this series. He's made three half-centuries (and a 36) in four innings with the bat, and taken 11 wickets at under 17 apiece with the ball. Incredibly, those efforts have not been enough to earn him a man-of-the-match award at Trent Bridge or Lord's.
I have an admittedly unscientific theory that players like Kumar who have played beautifully but missed out on the award in previous games start the next one with a bit of equity in the bank; a solid performance here could be enough to earn Kumar the honours, partly in recognition of his hitherto unrecognised efforts throughout the series.
Even without this notion, a price of 15/1 for a player batting like a genuine top-six player and bowling far better than anyone else on show looks solid business. Certainly you can expect at the very least to get an excellent run for your money based on what we've seen so far.
Another player worth considering in this market is Buttler at 22/1. There will inevitably be huge focus on England's new keeper, and that will amplify the perceived effect of his contribution for better or worse. He is such a dazzlingly exciting batsman it's hard to imagine that if he makes a score it will be anything less than eye-catching.
If he adds that to a tidy game behind the stumps - it will not be hard to be a marked improvement on Prior's slipshod work in the series to date - it could be enough.
But Kumar is the man for me, and I'll put some more eggs in his basket by taking 13/2 for him being the leading bowler on either side in the first innings. He's taken 5/82 and 6/82 in England's two first innings to date - winning this market by a two-wicket margin on both occasions - and neither set of figures flattered him.
On the evidence of the first two games, he deserves favouritism in this market, yet James Anderson is as short as 4/1. If you're feeling less adventurous, the 11/4 for Kumar to be India's top first-innings bowler is also more than reasonable.
Elsewhere, there still remains value in the top England batsman market. Although the betting is no longer headed across the board by the out-of-form pair of Cook and Ian Bell as it was at Lord's, the Yorkshire duo Gary Ballance (9/2) and Joe Root (5/1) still make plenty of appeal given their vastly superior form this summer. Root has been England's top scorer in two of their three innings in this series, with Ballance top-scoring in the other.
- Posted at 1125 BST on 25/07/2014.