Ashes Third Test preview: Australia praying for Manchester rain

Australia’s Ashes misery appears almost certain to continue at Old Trafford, with Ladbrokes revealing that all but a mere 15 per cent of match bet punters have swerved their monstrous 4/1 price for third Test glory.

Having come desperately close to snatching an unexpected 1-0 series lead after a valiant effort at Trent Bridge, the tourists were battered all around Lord’s by a merciless England side who have yet to bat to the fullest of their capabilities during the Ashes.

This took them to within one victory of claiming a hat-trick of series wins over the Old Enemy and, available to back at 8/11, they’re almost universally anticipated to rubber stamp supremacy in Manchester.

No member of the Three Lions camp will be thinking whitewash until their holding of the little urn is confirmed, but the odds of such an eventuality have dwarfed in stature since the series commencement in response to England’s stranglehold of proceedings from 25/1 to a measly-by-comparison 3’s.

The much-publicised problem faced by Darren Lehmann’s Australia team is their inability to wield the willow, with their tail frequently being demanded to wag to bail out the stuttering top order.

The imminent recall of hay-making David Warner has done little to alter the belief that the Aussies will fail with the bat once more, as England’s bowlers queue up to gorge themselves at the wicket buffet.

Returning to his home ground, superstar paceman James Anderson is the favourite to claim top first innings bowler honours at Old Trafford; he’s available to back at 7/4.

Graeme Swann must also come into the reckoning, with the pitch expected to offer all kinds of action for the slower bowlers. However, the off-spinner’s record on this track shouldn’t endear punters to his second-favouritism to be first innings top run scorer. He’s taken just six Test wickets at Old Trafford, five of which coming in one match.

Monty Panesar – the 4/1 outsider – could prove a worthy adversary in this respect. He’s been tipped in some quarters for a surprise inclusion and has taken more Test wickets in Manchester than in anywhere else in the world; 25 scalps have fallen to Monty in just 142 overs bowled here so expect him to do well if selected.

All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date