England's cricketers may have managed to grind out a rare series win against the Indians, but the bookmakers seem to feel this was more a fluke than evidence of a renaissance in the summer game. Ladbrokes make Pakistan the clear favourites at 6-4 for the three-match series, which begins at Lord's on Thursday, and only one major firm is prepared to quote England at shorter odds than the visitors.
William Hill are at least prepared to give England an equal chance, offering 13-8 about both sides and 9-5 for a drawn series. The latter price will find some takers given that, at 6-5, a draw is the firm favourite in betting on the first Test. Punters can take their pick on either side winning the match, at odds of 2-1 each of two.
Throughout the Indian series, commentators insisted so frequently that the Pakistanis would provide England with a far more serious challenge that it has become an accepted truth. For any serious punters, though, form must be the key consideration, and while England appear to have found a useful blend of flair and resilience, Pakistan have looked anything but a top international side in their recent warm-up matches.
After a comprehensive defeat by Warwickshire, Pakistan are struggling to avoid another at Kent, which is hardly the sort of performance to prompt a bet, either for the match or series, at such cramped odds. Backing England is rarely a value option whatever the sport, but this may be the exception to prove the rule. England can win the Test (5-2, Ladbrokes) and the series (7-4, also Ladbrokes).
The prohibition on backing the Brits will be back in place when the track and field events get underway in Atlanta. Few events have been priced up as yet, but the list on the 100 metres, with Linford Christie at a wholly unrealistic 10-1, gives an indication of what is in store.
An alternative is to back the British to do poorly, and the prices about the number of track and field medals which will return from the States are worth a second look. Jonathan Edwards may be guaranteed a medal of some description, but it is hard to see where many more may come from. William Hill's offers of 12-1 about two medals and 7-1 about three are worth a small interest.
FIRST TEST (Lord's, Thursday): Best prices: 5-4 draw (Coral), 11-5 Pakistan (Coral), 5-2 England (Ladbrokes). Series: 9-5 draw (Hills), 7-4 England (Hills), 7-4 Pakistan (Coral).
TRACK AND FIELD MEDALS (Hills): No medals, 80-1; 1, 33-1; 2, 12-1; 3, 7-1; 4, 11-2; 5, 9-2; 6, 9-2; 7, 5-1; 8, 7-1; 9, 10-1; 10, 14-1; 11, 20- 1; 12, 33-1; 13, 66-1; 14, 100-1; 15, 150-1.
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