Chris Woakes top scored in Adelaide
Chris Woakes top scored in Adelaide

Ashes cricket betting tips: Fifth Test in-play preview as England's lower order backed to shine


Richard Mann's latest in-play Ashes preview features selections at 66/1 and 20/1, as England face an uphill battle in the fifth Test in Hobart.


Cricket tips: The Ashes fifth Test in-play

1pt Chris Woakes top England first-innings batsman at 20/1 (Paddy Power, Betfair)

0.5pts Mark Wood top England first-innings batsman at 66/1 (Sky Bet)

Sky Bet odds | Paddy Power | Betfair Sportsbook


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While there is plenty of competition, day one of the fifth Ashes Test in Hobart has to be a frontrunner for the tourists' worst day of the series so far. After a brilliant start with the new ball that saw England reduce Australia to 12-3, the hosts ended a rain-curtailed day one on 241-6 and in a thoroughly commanding position.

On winning a crucial toss, Joe Root did what he should have done in Brisbane and opted to bowl first, and was initially well backed up by Ollie Robinson and Stuart Broad who delivered superb opening spells with the aid of a pitch that wasn’t too dissimilar in colour to the outfield, and a pink ball that moved violently off the seam.

Make no mistake, the going was incredibly tough for Australia’s top order in the early exchanges but, after 15 overs or so, things got noticeably easier as the older pink ball reverted to type and adopted its familiar gun-barrel straight trajectory, allowing Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne to produce a brave counterattack.

Head, completing his second century of the winter, and Labuschagne deserve plenty of credit for changing the course of the day, so too Cameron Green who compiled a composed 74, but England only had themselves to blame for spurning another golden opportunity to put themselves in pole position. Root has talked plenty about grasping key moments, but the talk is wearing thin and the second session, in particular, was a horror show.

Travis Head celebrates his second century of the series
Travis Head

Robinson’s fitness issues again came back to haunt him as he pulled up after a solitary over in the second session, while Mark Wood was understandably down on pace turning out for his third Test in a row and fourth of the series. Let’s not forget that Wood was rested for the second Test when England’s Ashes hopes hung by a thread, but now, with only pride to play for, Root and head coach Chris Silverwood have felt the need to ask their only current fit, genuine quick bowler to go to the well again, despite another series in the West Indies fast approaching.

England fall apart at the seams in Hobart

With Ben Stokes unable to bowl, England opted to drop Jack Leach and play four frontline seamers, but that meant a return for Chris Woakes who was poor with the ball when last seen in Adelaide and now averages 54.13 from 17 Tests away from home. A wonderful bowler in England when conditions suit, and a fine limited-overs cricketer, we have seen enough of Woakes to know that with the ball, he just doesn't cut it away from home.

How on earth he was recalled into a four-man attack is beyond any reasonable thinking, and one must feel for Craig Overton who was named in the squad because of his height and the promise he displayed in Australia four years ago. He deserved his chance.

Penny for the thoughts of James Anderson, too, who missed out due to a ‘couple of niggles’ that troubled him at the end of the fourth Test at the SCG. Having played three Tests in a row and getting through lots of work, perhaps it was prudent to pull Anderson out of the firing line, but it’s hard to think he wouldn’t have been able to manage his niggles better than Robinson has, or proven more of a threat on this green surface than Woakes, even if only half fit.

Anderson’s omission is open for debate, and more clarity from England would help clear that up, but selection throughout the tour has been poor and the sight of Root bowling his part-time off spin under lights because Robinson was labouring and Woakes impotent was one final kick in the teeth for supporters. From planning, to selection, to personal fitness, this was a diabolical showing from England.

Tough day in store for shaky top order

Despite England winning what should have proven to be a crucial toss, I fear Australia might already be out of sight and should they so wish, the home side might yet work themselves into a position to enforce the follow-on. There’s a long way to go before that, and I doubt Pat Cummins would take up that option at the end of a long series, but I do think England will have their work cut out with the bat.

As we saw on day one, the new pink ball did plenty and I don’t expect that to change too much with so little sun on view in Hobart on Friday, meaning the mass of live, green grass left on the surface will still be prominent on day two.

Pat Cummins ripped through England's top order on Boxing Day
Pat Cummins

With Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Scott Boland having caused England’s top order significant problems throughout the series, it’s fair to assume more carnage will ensue and I think the first 20 overs – just as it was for Australia – could be painful. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised were England to find themselves 30-4 against the new ball, for all Zak Crawley’s return has at least added some quality to the line-up.

Thereafter, there were signs on Thursday that this pitch is actually a pretty good one for batting, once the new ball has been negotiated, and as we have seen countless times before, the pink ball doesn’t tend to swing once it gets older, or unless the lights have a significant effect. We didn’t get an answer to that last question on day one, but there is a chance that the cooler weather in Hobart, particularly at night, means that proves less of a factor in this Test match.

It’s just a theory, but I can’t see batting being any tougher than against the new ball and, as such, betting the lower order in England’s top first-innings batsman market is a must.

Stokes is the obvious one on the back of his two half-centuries in Sydney, and at around the 5/1 mark I’m very tempted, especially considering how poor the returning Ollie Pope has been so far in this series and that debutant Sam Billings comes into this Test match on the back of a diet of white-ball cricket.

Woakes and Wood worth a play at big prices

Still, I’m leaning towards taking two at bigger prices, namely the aforementioned CHRIS WOAKES and MARK WOOD.

Woakes might not have impacted the series with the ball, but part of his lure is the fact that’s a very capable batsman at number eight and his scores so far in this series have been 21, 16, 24 and 44 – that latest contribution coming when top-scoring in the second innings in Adelaide.

Something similar might suffice again on Saturday, and I like the fact that bowling on a green surface such as this one means Australia’s bowlers are likely to concentrate on a line and length approach more than testing Woakes’ obvious weakness against the short ball. Add to that my suspicion that batting might be easier later in England’s innings, and the prospect of plenty of gaps in the outfield as Australia hunt those lower-order wickets, the Warwickshire man has to be worth a spin at 20/1.

On the same theme, I can’t resist adding Wood to the staking plan following his blistering 39 in the fourth Test when he took a particular liking to Cummins’ short stuff. Wood has worked tirelessly on his batting in recent months and his efforts are now starting to reap rewards.

I don’t expect him to make a significant score, but another 30 or 40 might well be enough to win this market, and in scoring quickly, Wood will give himself a chance to do just that if getting on a roll again. To small stakes, I’m happy to take a punt at 66/1 (Sky Bet).

Published at 1415 GMT on 14/01/22


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