Venue – The Oval, London
Date: Wed, June 7 to Sun, June 11
The second edition of the ICC World Test Championship wraps up this week with India facing Australia at The Oval in London. We are guaranteed a new – and first-time – champions, as holders New Zealand finished sixth in the league standings and failed to reach the final to defend their trophy for the 2021 final.
This tournament has a long cycle. It is played over two full years – ironically, with India and England getting the series underway back on 4 August 2021 – and saw 69 matches being played over 27 series. Australia was comfortably the class of the field as they only lost three times in 19 matches, while India did just enough over the course of the comp to beat South Africa and push the Proteas into third place.
The main question for India is what they will decide to do with their bowling lineup. One-off Tests are rare in international cricket, so getting the player selection right is paramount. The Indian spinners – specifically Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin – have both been exceptional of late, but the pitch at The Oval is going to be vastly different than what they have been playing on recently on the subcontinent.
Jadeja might get into the team on the basis of his batting alone. He works as a No. 6 with the bat, one good enough to be picked for that side of his game that can be used as a bowling option if the wicket is more spin-friendly than anticipated.
Australia is down one of its frontline bowlers for this one. Josh Hazlewood will miss the contest, opening up an opportunity for another player to make an impact. Scott Boland and Michael Neser are the two players in contention, and the Aussie selectors seem comfortable throwing either in at the deep end here.
It is still a formidable group, with Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, and Cameron Grimes (all-rounder) making up the rest of the rotation. It is also a group that would seem – on paper at least – to be more set up to succeed on an English-style wicket.
Looking at the markets, a few players are worth targeting as prop bets here. Australia boasts the world’s No. 1 ranked Test batsman, and Marnus Labuschagne is 7/2 to be their top batsman per BetXchange. He wasn’t great on Indian soil recently in the Test series between the two nations, but I like him to bounce back impressively on a wicket that will be much more to his liking.
I would have picked Hazelwood to be the top Aussie bowler, but in his place, I really like Cummins (5/2). This is a pitch that has historically suited tall seamers over any other type of bowling technique, and that is where Cummins is excellent. He is also an intriguing 11/1 to win Man of the Match, odds I certainly don’t hate as I expect Australia to win the match thanks to their bowling.