This blog has cast its doubt on the quality of the contest at times – but not for a moment the drama and entertainment. This has been breathless, fluctuating fare, the sort of contest that very few contests other than Test cricket can provide.
How many times has the momentum swung one way, only to go the other? And that is why, despite conventional wisdom suggesting England have this in the bag, it would be a brave man who bets against a final twist.
To illustrate the point, here’s the market history for the Test, according to the data from betting exchange Betfair:
Image - Betfair (Australia's odds on the betting exchange of winning the Test - data correct as of 19:00 on July 13)
Their graph shows the extraordinary undulations of the match on the odds of an Australia win. In a two-horse race (Australia victory or England victory – we can, as punters have, largely discount the draw on a result wicket with perfect weather all Test long) the Australians have four times gone out as far as 15/2 shots (represented as 8.5 on the graph). Three times they have come back to be the favourites.
All in all the tag of favourites (with a price of 2 being evens, the team with a number under two is favourites) has changed 17 times in the space of four days.
The numbers on the graph in blue are ours – annotations of the key moments in the match:
1 – LONG SHOTS Australia drift out after a strong day, when England reduce them to 53-4 on the first evening.
2 – FAVOURITES Steve Smith and Phil Hughes rebuild the innings, and it suddenly seems Australia will build a lead.
3 – LONG SHOTS – A collapse reduces Australia to 117-9 on day two.
4 – FAVOURITES – Ashton Agar together with Hughes bats Australia into an unexpected first-innings lead (they are still not favourites until England are reduced to 11-2 in their second innings).
5 – OUTSIDERS – Kevin Pietersen and Alastair Cook put on 110 for the third wicket to give England momentum on day three.
6 – FAVOURITES – KP and Cook fall in quick succession, Bairstow and Prior’s brief innings don’t restore confidence in England.
7 – LONG SHOTS – Ian Bell and Stuart Broad bat England into a strong position at the end of day three and early on day four.
8 – FAVOURITES – Australia make a quick start without loss to a steep chase of 311 runs – the chase ebbs and flows with loss of wickets countered by partnerships blossoming.
9 – LONG SHOTS – Michael Clarke’s wicket, followed by Smith and Hughes, moves Australia out to their worst odds yet before the market settles.
10 – What’s next? Your guess is as good as Cowers'...