Free cricket betting tips: Richard Mann previews the Test series between Australia and India

Usman Khawaja
Usman Khawaja

Richard Mann previews the upcoming Test series between Australia and India in which there is a huge amount on the line for both sides.

Australia v India Test Series: Recommended bets

3pts Usman Khawaja top Australian series batsman at 3/1


The Australian summer begins in earnest at 00:00 GMT on Thursday with a slightly different look to it this year with the first Test, traditionally held at the Gabba in Brisbane, now staged in Adelaide.

That won't bother the Indians, though, as the Gabba can be an intimidating venue for touring teams and it is no surprise that Australia's recent record there is so impressive.

Historically, Adelaide has been one of the flattest wickets in Australia and its baking hot temperatures have meant that bowlers, particularly the seamers, have found the going tough on a surface that hasn't had a great deal of pace in it.

The decision to stage the day/night Test of last year's Ashes series there meant that the seamers were able to garner more assistance from the Adelaide surface, but that generally came when the lights took effect and James Anderson was able to get the pink ball moving sideways.

New groundsman Damian Hough has made a concerted effort to get more pace into the pitch and encourage a more even contest between bat and ball, though it is hard to believe it will be 'Gabba' quick come Thursday.

Adelaide Oval
Adelaide Oval

Furthermore, Western Australia comfortably chased down 313 in the most recent Sheffield Shield game and a closer inspection of the scorecard suggested the new ball posed a considerable threat while batting became much easier once the ball got softer - as is usually the case with the Kookaburra cherry.

As such, conditions shouldn't be anywhere near as testing as those the Indian batsmen faced in England last summer and South Africa before that.

Captain Virat Kohli was the outstanding batsman in both of those aforementioned tours, while his performances on India's last visit to Australia, back in 2014, were exceptional.

Kohli made 692 runs in that four-match series at an average of 86.50, relishing the pace and bounce on offer from the likes of Mitchell Johnson and the true nature of Australian pitches - while Murali Vijay and KL Rahul both enjoyed success, too.

Rahul and Kohli look key to India's chances again while the tourists would do well to consider recalling Rohit Sharma, a fabulous player when on song whose one-day record in Australia demonstrates his ability to play the horizontal shots so desperately needed to combat a home bowling attack loaded with pace.

For all Sharma is yet to crack Test cricket, Kolhi might need to gamble in order to lead India to a first ever Test series win in Australia and it might be worth taking a risk on this huge talent.

Rohit Sharma of India
Will India gamble on Rohit Sharma?

Despite losing 3-1 in England, India came out of that tour with plenty of credit and, but for losing every toss in the five-match series, might well have come out on top.

For those watching, it was fairly evident that there was little between the two sides and should Kohli enjoy more luck with the toss this time around, India might be able to dictate terms as they were able to do when England asked them to bat first at Trent Bridge and tourists went on to win by 203 runs.

As we are seeing all over the world at present, winning the toss, batting first and posting any sort of a score is proving a very good recipe for success in the longest form of the game.

With very few modern day batsmen seemingly able to bat for long periods in deteriorating conditions, chasing on days four and five has become more improbable than ever. England's recent win in Sri Lanka and New Zealand's first-Test success against Pakistan in Dubai are two more stark reminders of this.

With that in mind, my enthusiasm for an outright selection is tempered but make no mistake, this Indian side have the tools and the mettle win against an Australian outfit that has major holes in its batting.

India's fine seam attack, lead by the impressive Jasprit Bumrah, will certainly fancy their chances against a home batting line-up shorn of the services of Steve Smith and David Warner, though they won't enjoy the same level of sideways movement they did in England last summer.

Jasprit Bumrah
Jasprit Bumrah enjoyed plenty of success against England

That said, Australia will rely on Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh to carry the burden of a batting order short of experience and pedigree and even though home comforts are always a help, getting enough runs on the board to support their excellent pace attack will be a big challenge and could be where the series is won or lost for Justin Langer's men.

For Langer - who took over as head coach following the ball-tampering scandal - the honeymoon period is all but over, some poor results in white-ball cricket sandwiched between a Test series defeat away against Pakistan, and he will be expected to deliver victory back on home soil in an iconic series such as this.

His battery of pace bowlers will once again be Australia's trump card. Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood proved too hot for England to handle in the Ashes last winter but Kohli and co look better equipped to handle such a test - swing and seam rather than pace and bounce has been India's undoing more recently - and I expect India to score enough runs to compete at the very least.

While Langer and captain Tim Paine are under significant pressure for Australia to start winning again, there is a huge amount on the line for Kohli's India, too.

Despite the talk of this being one of the best Indian sides of our generation - and there is no doubt they have made huge strides - valiant efforts in defeat away against South Africa and England didn't yield the results they craved and victory on foreign soil, in Australia of all places, is a feat that would propel this team to greatness in India, for all that their captain is already there.

For both parties, almost everything is on the line.

Justin Langer
Justin Langer needs results

Despite the outright match betting making little appeal until post-toss, Usman Khawaja looks an outstanding bet at 3/1 to top Australia's run charts in the series.

Khawaja has always looked a special player in the making - a natural stroke-maker with a cover drive that has a look of David Gower - and though it took a little bit of time for the penny to drop, he looks to be there now and we can expect his career average of 43.83 to continue on an upward curve over the next few years.

Khawaja's Achilles heel had always been spinning pitches in the subcontinent but an arduous new fitness regime and the backing of Langer and Paine saw him thrive on the recent tour to Dubai.

The left-hander scored more runs than anyone in that series - 229 at an average of 76.33 - and his heroic 141 in the first Test ensured his side secured a remarkable draw having looked down and out early on the fifth day.

Usman Khawaja celebrates his first Ashes century
Usman Khawaja is a key man for Australia

What has never been in question is Khawaja's ability to prosper on home soil - his average rises to almost 60 in Australia, with five hundreds - and with his form and fitness in as good a place as ever, another big summer should be on the cards for the 31-year-old.

With his batting colleagues - Aaron Finch, Travis Head and Mitchell Marsh - all trying to find their way at this level, and Shaun Marsh coming into this series on the back of a lean run of form in Test cricket, the case for Khawaja is rock solid and the extra responsibility he now finds placed on his shoulders appears to be sitting well.

If I can find a negative to his Khawaja's chance, it would be the success India's seam attack enjoyed against England's left-handed batsmen earlier this year but those bowlers enjoyed plenty of assistance from conditions on that tour and shouldn't be so fortunate here.

Furthermore, Khawaja isn't the only left-hander in the Australian batting line-up but he is easily the best and that will do for me.


Posted at 1625 GMT on 04/12/18.

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