Back

England to wrap up the series in Durham

It’s a strange thing: England are celebrating retaining the Ashes after just 14 days of cricket, but the force appears to be with Australia.

Two-nil up after three Tests, Alastair Cook already has the precious urn in his hands and just a draw at Durham this weekend will ensure a series victory. And yet it is the Aussie fans who are walking with a bit of a spring in their step for the first time this summer and it is the Aussie players and journalists who are getting pumped up and excited about what’s going to happen next. Shane Warne has been stirring it up nicely, calling England smug, arrogant and disrespectful and ready for a fall.

Coral still regard it as much more likely (5/2) that England will go on to win the series 4-0 than it is that Australia will claw it back to 2-2 (11/1), but the visitors have good reason to feel much more optimistic than they did after dominating the Old Trafford Test from start to rain-enforced early finish.

And though Michael Clarke’s men will go back home without the Ashes, they will be now be more confident that they can claim them back Down Under this winter.

Certainly, this has not been the romp many predicted and the main reason for that is that the Aussie seam attack has been every bit as potent as England’s. Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle have been particularly effective against the home side’s top order and if they could have called upon a spinner with as much quality as Graeme Swann, this series would almost certainly still be very much alive.

England’s camp can justifiably point out that they have won the Ashes so quickly, even without the expected large contributions from some of their top players (notably Cook and Jonathan Trott) and that things can only get better when it all clicks.

They are evens with Coral to win the Fourth Test with Australia 11/4 (9/4 the draw), but, all things considered, this has the makings of a real scrap.

Graham Onions might well come in for Tim Bresnan or Stuart Broad and England will not be the weaker for it. The Durham seamer knows his home ground, of course, and is also in fine form at the moment. If picked, he makes some appeal at 4/1 to be England’s leading first innings wicket-taker and he wouldn’t be a bad bet, either, at 16/1 for Man of the Match.

Kevin Pietersen and Michael Clarke both came good with stylish centuries at Old Trafford and head Coral’s betting to do it again in the first innings at the Riverside – Pietersen is 100/30 and Clarke 7/2.