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Will Stokes’s injury hurt England’s chances against Pakistan?

The England all-rounder, Ben Stokes, has been ruled out of the third test against Pakistan at Edgbaston. Could his absence upset the balance of the side and tip the scales in the opposition’s favour?

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BEN STOKES – (CC BY-SA 2.0) by NAPARAZZI

Ben Stokes missed England’s first test against Pakistan emerged as victors by 75 runs. The 25-year-old returned to the fold for the second meeting of the two sides at Old Trafford, as England bounced back to level the series at 1-1. The hosts annihilated their opposition, and won by 330 runs. Stokes put in a fairly decent performance with 34 runs and 2 wickets, but it was perhaps his dressing room and on-pitch presence that helped spur the Lions on to victory.

In the stunning victory, Stokes received the crushing blow that his injury woes are far from over. He tore a muscle in his right calf while bowling, and has not been selected for the Edgbaston test that starts on Wednesday. After suffering from knee problems that saw him miss most of the Sri Lankan tour and the first test against Pakistan, the player who has been compared to Andrew Flintoff by some will be desperately hoping he can recover quickly. If he had managed to avoid injury and had the chance to push on properly after his record innings of 258 against South Africa last year, he could have been on the path towards becoming one of the world’s best.

Even in the all-rounder’s absence, England at odds of 4/6 in the cricket betting to win the series at the time of writing. If they fail to win the third test, though, the best they can hope for is a draw, with the odds for that outcome currently at 5/2.

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JOE ROOT – (CC BY-SA 2.0) by NAPARAZZI

The Lions are well favoured for the series after Joe Root’s imperious form shone through in the second test. The Yorkshireman bagged 254 runs in the first innings against Pakistan at Old Trafford, and followed up his career best with 71 not out in the second innings. Certainly, with the 25-year-old fresh from such a huge confidence boost, the Lions will fancy their number 3 batsman can build upon those astonishing hits. The captain, Alastair Cook, is also in fine fettle having scored a century and two fifties so far in the series.

On the back of a solid performance in the second test, England should be able to push on and gain the upper hand in the third. The Lions already have another all-rounder at their disposal in Chris Woakes, who has made an excellent case for his permanent inclusion. The 27-year-old has already picked up 18 wickets and is odds on at 1/16 to be England’s bowler of the series. He hasn’t been quite as convincing with the bat, though, so England may want to play a specialist batsman in Stokes’s place.

There is no doubt that the absence of Stokes is a huge blow for the player and the team, but England have shown how devastating they can be, and can push on to win this series.

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Cricket Betting

Big Bash League Early Favourites

The Big Bash League might still be four months away, but it’s never too early to check out where you can bet on the Big Bash League and see the early favourites.

With several players already having secured deals at new clubs for the upcoming season, excitement is at fever pitch for what is sure to be the most entertaining season yet.

Despite winning the competition last season, the Sydney Thunder are only second favourite to take out this year’s title.

The Thunder are paying $5.50 to win the tournament, while the Melbourne Stars are once again favourites, paying $5.00.

The Renegades and Perth Scorchers are equal third, at $6.00, while the Adelaide Striker are just behind at $6.50.

The Sydney Sixes ($7.00) and Hobart Hurricanes ($7.50) are sixth and seventh respectively, the Heat are being given no chance at the moment, at $10.00.

The Big Bash League is sure to be a huge hit once again, with last season breaking all sorts of incredible records.

The BBL now ranks inside the world’s top 10 most attended leagues.

BBL05 had an average crowd in 2015/16 of 28,498, coming in ninth in the world, which is an outstanding achievement for a relatively new competition.

The eight sports above the Big Bash League on the list are; the NFL (68,278) German Bundesliga (43,331), US College Football Division I FBL (43,288), English Premier League (36,464), AFL (33,428), Indian Premier League (31,750), Major League Baseball (30,517), La Liga (28,498).

Amazingly, Australia has two sports in the top ten, with the AFL having an average attendance of 33,428 per game.

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Cricket News

Australia need strong 2016 campaign to prove Ashes credentials

Australia surrendered the Ashes without a huge fight in the 2015 series as Stuart Broad led England to victory to reclaim the urn.

The Baggy Greens put in weak efforts with the bat at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge allowed Alastair Cook’s men to avenge their whitewash defeat 18 months prior.

However, they are backed at 2/1 in the latest cricket odds to win back the Ashes Down Under next year, although both teams are a long way from being ready for another encounter.

The series defeat in England brought about the end of Michael Clarke’s career as he struggled with a back injury throughout the summer, while Chris Rogers also departed the international arena, leaving huge voids in the line-up.

Steve Smith continued his impressive run of form in the series with centuries at Lord’s and The Oval, but failed to make an impact in bowler-friendly conditions.

He inherited the captaincy from Clarke and the Aussies made a strong start under his reign by overcoming their defeat to England as they brushed aside New Zealand.

Their dominance with the bat proved to be the difference between the teams in a 2-0 victory on home soil as the Baggy Greens just edged out the Black Caps in the first day/night Test match to clinch their win.

The form of Smith and David Warner at the top of the innings proved to be crucial in the victory, while Usman Khawaja and Joe Burns also notched centuries to solidify their place in the line-up.

Adam Voges was the key figure in the following series win over the West Indies with 375 runs in the three matches, most of which came from an unbeaten innings of 269 in the first Test.

Meanwhile, James Pattinson returned to the fold to provide support for Josh Hazlewood in the absence of Mitchell Starc and led the wicket column with 13 strikes.

Australia continued their resurgence under Smith with another comfortable series win in their tour of New Zealand, with Voges again leading the way with the bat, while Burns scored his second Test century.

Hazlewood stepped forward as the leader of the attack and Jackson Bird offered another option on the bowling front with a five-wicket haul to guide the Aussies to victory in Christchurch.

Smith’s men have developed consistency in their batting line-up with all of their players making contributions to their recent Test victories.

However, the runs were made against mediocre attacks and favourable home conditions, leaving with much to prove before they face off against Broad and James Anderson once again in the pressure-cooker environment of the Ashes.

Their series against South Africa later in 2016 will be key to see if they can hold up against the quality of a varied pace attack as Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada will offer a potent threat.

Encouragingly for Smith and the Aussie selectors the team have managed to build a solid stock of pace bowlers, even though injuries have forced them to include players out of necessity.

Starc and Pattinson’s fitness problems could be a cause for concern over the long term as will Pat Cummins, who has also struggled to remain healthy despite his talent.

Hazlewood has risen to the occasion since leaving England after an underwhelming Ashes series, and it will be on him most of all to improve his wicket-taking ability and temperament, given his exploits against the Black Caps.

Elsewhere Bird, Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon all offer solid complements, but the Baggy Greens will need their pacemen to fire to retake the urn back next year.

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Cricket Betting

The stars of Australia’s new era

Australia’s resounding win over the West Indies in game one of the Frank Worrell Trophy has got many pundits tipping this team for big things in 2016.

Such was the verve and flair displayed by a young side who are stepping into some big shoes, there is now talk of the likes of Steven Smith and co. defying the doom-mongers who believe they are too inexperienced to compete with the very best.

CC - hughiethethird
CC – hughiethethird

Bookmakers’ odds on Australia winning the second Test against the West Indies plummeted after their first test victory, with online betting sites like Bet365 offering just 1.08/1 at the time of writing on the Aussies to win, while the West Indies are priced at 26/1.

But who are the key men in the side that is following in the footsteps of Michael Clarke, Shane Watson, Chris Rogers, Ryan Harris, Brad Haddin, and Mitchell Johnson, all of whom recently retired? Let’s take a look.

Steven Smith

Given his stellar reputation on the world stage, it seems hard to believe that Steven Smith is still only 26 years old. Australia’s captain broke into the ICC’s Official Player Rankings for Test batsmen, and is currently ranked fourth behind Joe Root, AB de Villiers and Kane Williamson with a rating of 874. Smith’s average of 80 and high score of 215 not out have made him an indispensable asset to the side. Australia coach Darren Lehmann will hope he can shake off the knee and hip problems that have dogged him in time for the New Year’s action.

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Cricket News

Have England finally found Freddie’s replacement?

English cricket is always looking out for the next great all-rounder, and in Ben Stokes they may well have found it. After spending a long time looking for the man to take over from Ian Botham as England’s swashbuckling batsman and aggressive fast bowler, Andrew Flintoff fill the role to perfection during his colourful Test career. Following Freddie’s retirement from international cricket in 2009, a number of players have come and gone as England have looked for their next great all-rounder, albeit one they hope isn’t found floating out to sea in the middle of the night.

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CC by DncnH

One of those players given the chance to establish himself in the Test side was Ben Stokes. While it took time for the big-hitting Durham star to adapt to life on the international stage, Stokes’ role in the recent Ashes success has ensured English fans have a new all-rounder to really get behind. Having played a starring role in the encouraging Test and ODI series against New Zealand, Stokes was named in England’s team for the opening match of this Ashes series in Cardiff. And it’s fair to say it’s a decision the selectors got right.

Following a strong start with the bat, recording scores of 52 and 42, the all-rounder hit a sensational 87 at Lord’s before playing a crucial role in England reclaiming the urn by taking a gob-smacking catch off Stuart Broad in the first innings and collecting 6/36 as the Aussies collapsed in the second innings in Nottingham. As well as bringing some real power into the middle of the England batting order, an area that has been crucial to the hosts’ victory in this series, Stokes has added plenty to the bowling line-up, and his six-for at Trent Bridge proved he has what it takes to be the fourth member of this pace attack.

This Ashes series has come as something of a shock to many who bet on cricket, and it’s been England’s young players who have perhaps been the difference between the two. As well as experienced heads James Anderson, Alastair Cook, Stuart Broad and Ian Bell all playing key roles, the performances of the team’s younger players has been the real success story of England’s summer. While Stokes has enhanced his reputation as a Test all-rounder, Joe Root climbed to the top of the batting rankings following a sensational series, with Mark Wood, Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler all doing their case for continued involvement with the squad no harm.

For Stokes, though, the battle is for him to now build on his Ashes success and really cement his place as England’s all-rounder. With a number of players all vying for that number-six spot, the 24-year old knows he can’t afford to let his performances slip just because he’s played an important role in winning the Ashes. On the evidence of the past couple of months, though, England will be confident that they have an all-rounder in place who could be just what they’ve been looking for.

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Cricket Betting

England Return to Bopara to End Slide

To say that England are in poor ODI form heading into November’s series in Sri Lanka and the World Cup next February would be an understatement. This summer Alistair Cook’s men were comprehensively beaten first by Sri Lanka and then by India and they have not won an ODI series of more than three games against a test playing nation since beating Australia back in 2012. Having briefly reached the top of the ODI standings a couple of years back England have now dropped down to fifth and questions are being asked of the selectors and captain Cook. In an attempt to arrest England’s decline the selectors have turned to a familiar face, naming Essex’s Ravi Bopara in their 16-man squad for the tour to Sri Lanka, and he is confident that he can make a real difference ahead of the World Cup.

With England’s odds to win the tournament currently between 6/1 and 10/1 with the likes of Bet365, Sports Bet and 32Red Sports there is good value available for those who are willing to a gamble on Bopara hitting form and adding backbone to England’s batting line-up. Those punters that do get lucky on a world cup bet could consider transferring their winnings over to the online bookies’ casino sections to boost their account balance. Online bookmakers such as Bet365 and 32Red Sports also offer a casino section. 32Red Casino, for instance, make it easy for players to turn their cricket earnings into chips and new players can $10 in casino chips on a free, no-deposit sign-up. Other sites offer similar promotions so it’s worth shopping around to get the most out of your bet.

Bopara initially made a name for himself as both a test and ODI player, making his debut in both forms of the game back in 2007. In recent years, however, he has come to be seen as more of an ODI specialist and his three test centuries in 13 matches are easily overlooked. His promise as a limited overs player even saw him signed by the Kings XI Punjab in the IPL back in 2009 but his recent form has not attracted so much attention and he was ignored in the 2014 IPL auction.

Bopara last appeared for England in this summer’s series against Sri Lanka, playing in all five games of the 3-2 defeat before being dropped for the series against India. In dropping Bopara it became clear that the England selectors did not see a place for him in the team, opting to go with more specialist batsmen and bowlers than to stick with Bopara as a bowling all-rounder able to hold down one end with his military medium style. The decision to go with a fifth specialist bowler backfired on England, as they lost the India series 3-1, but Bopara holds no grudges; “It’s never nice seeing England lose,” he said. “A lot of my mates I’ve played with for a long time play in that side and I know how it feels because I’ve been on the end of it before. But we’ve got to put that behind us and work on the things we’ve spoken about – like playing spin,” he added, hinting at the England top order’s difficulty in getting to grips with the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and part-timer spinners Suresh Raina and Ambati Rayudu.

The biggest criticism for England’s recent performances was saved for their batsmen, with the team passing 250 just once in their four ODIs against India and with Joe Root notching England’s only century (113 in the fifth ODI at Headingley). Similarly to the test team earlier in the summer, captain Alistair Cook came under the microscope and his personal top score of 46 was not enough to stop the calls from pundits and former colleagues alike suggesting that he should stand down. Despite the series defeat against India, Cook is standing firm and will remain as captain for the World Cup. For his Essex colleague Bopara that can only be a good thing. “I think they’ve made the right call,” he said. “It’s difficult now to bring in someone new – it would have been a brave decision. But he’s got a lot of experience behind him and we’ve seen Cooky go through tough patches before and come through the other side,” the 108 ODI veteran added. As for Bopara himself, he will need to find some form with the bat, having made just one half century in his last 13 England ODI innings and averaged just 19.5 in the series against Sri Lanka.

The decision to bring Bopara back in to the fold so quickly after dropping him could be viewed in a number of ways. It could be viewed as a sign of weakness from the selectors and an example of them not having the courage of their convictions to stick with the new faces or it could, in a more positive light, be viewed as an acceptance that they got things wrong against India and that they are willing to lose face to put them right. Either way it will not take long to find out whether the decision to recall Bopara will give England the boost that they need, the first ODI against Sri Lanka takes place in Colombo on 26th November.

Image by johnniemojo

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