Cricket: Bookmakers and batsmen: How the numbers add up in cricket

SPORTS BETTING is a growth area for bookmakers and cricket, very much a numbers game, lends itself particularly to the spread betting market. Julian Barkes, of Sporting Index, says the most popular market on the third Test, which starts in Adelaide tonight, is the spread on the numbers of runs a side will score in the first innings. Barkes said yesterday: "We won't fix the exact spread until we know who's won the toss. But England will be quoted at 300-320. If you think they will score more than that, you `buy' at that figure and, if you think they will score fewer, you `sell'." The more pounds per run the punter bets, the more they win or lose.

Barkes says that, due to the time difference between England and Australia, they have a particularly popular market betting on how many runs will be scored in the first session, which will be over by 2am GMT, enabling nocturnal punters to be able to get off to bed at a relatively sane time, knowing whether they have won or not.

Novelty bets are also big business. City Index, for example, come out of the shade to offer a sartorial spread on the number of catches by fielders sporting sunglasses.

Tim Pickering of the Tote said most cricket betting business is on outright results. The Tote bet 5-6 Australia, 6-5 the draw and 15-2 England on the third Test, and Pickering reckoned 90 per cent of cricket bets will be on this market. Pickering said: "The other 10 per cent will be on the markets we form on who will be the top batsman in the first innings for each side. Forming two markets, rather than betting on who will be top batsman overall enables punters to do doubles."

Bookies also bet on who will win the series outright. Pickering said: "The market for that has dried up now, though. Australia were 1-3 to win before the series began. They're 1-20 now."

Ladbrokes bet on who will be the top batman overall in the third Test. Alec Stewart is 4-1 favourite to score most runs for England, with Michael Atherton and Nasser Hussain at 9-2, while they make Mark Taylor "Burlington Bertie" (100-30) to be the leading Australian batsman, with Steve Waugh 7-2, and Mark Waugh 4-1.

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