Edgbaston. The scene of one of the most fondly remembered and tightly contested Ashes Test matches in recent memory.
Who can forget Steve Harmison having Michael Kasprowicz caught down the leg side by Geraint Jones to secure England victory by just two runs in 2005?
Or seeing Andrew Flintoff walk over to a crouching, deflated Brett Lee at the non-striker’s end and giving him a pat on the back for his dogged effort in defeat?
From that small winning margin to the second Test of the current series, where England suffered their heaviest loss in Ashes history, courtesy of a 405-run defeat at Lord’s.
Captain Alastair Cook has called for a “good old-fashioned English pitch” and the temptation will be to bat for the team that wins the toss, in the hope of getting a decent score on the board and the opportunity to bowl in the fourth innings when cracks will appear and levels of spin and bounce will be most inconsistent.
Interestingly, the team that has won the toss in both Tests so far have batted first and secured victory.
However, history suggests that bowling first is the most sensible ploy at Edgbaston.
Not since England’s aforementioned Ashes success at the ground have the team opening the batting triumphed in five completed matches.
Sri Lanka put 141 on the board in 2006, England managed only 231 against a Graeme Smith-inspired South Africa in 2008, Australia drew when last visiting in 2009, Pakistan were skittled out for just 72 in 2010 and India made only 224 in 2011, with England racking up 710 in reply thanks to Cook’s 294.
In the first four cases, the low first-innings scorers all won the toss and opted to bat, while Andrew Strauss chose to bowl four years ago against the then top side in world cricket and benefitted from the bowling accuracy of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan.
It is also no surprise that in none of these last five matches that saw each side complete one innings did any of the teams batting first hold a first-innings advantage.
With England’s bowling being far more reliable than their willow-swinging at present, taking the new ball first surely looks the most productive strategy on a pitch known to be difficult to get runs on the board early.
What’s more, England have held the first-innings lead in six of the last seven Tests at Edgbaston. This makes 5/4 a big price on the same occurring again. These odds will look even bigger if Cook’s men start with ball in hand.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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