Australia v West Indies
First Test – Hobart
Starts Thursday, 10 December 10:30am
Hobart’s picturesque Bellerive Oval is the venue for the first test in a three match series between Australia and the West Indies.
The hosts come into this match off the back of a 2-0 series defeat of New Zealand, however they have experienced further disruption to their bowling stocks following Mitchell Starc’s season-ending ankle injury. James Pattinson will likely fill the breach with the unexpected pair of Nathan Coulter-Nile and Scott Boland waiting in the wings.
Hopes are not high for the visitors who, excluding matches against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, have lost 13 of their past 18 tests, winning only two. Furthermore their only-warm fixture resulted in a humiliating loss to a Cricket Australia XI with scant first-class experience. There are no changes to their squad which suffered a 2-0 loss away to Sri Lanka in October.
This is just the 12th test match to be played at Bellerive and the first in three years. While the most renowned may have been the low-scoring thriller featuring New Zealand in 2011, Hobart tests generally produce favourable conditions for batting and that is likely to continue with administrators no doubt carrying concerns about matches in this series lasting the full five days.
Looking at the match odds Australia are very short at just 1.14 and while they should be heavily favoured to win there’s not a lot of room to move with that price. Given their recent record against the more established test sides as well as their disastrous warm-up I couldn’t go near the Windies, even at the 23.00 available. That leaves the draw which at 11.00 should also be avoided due to the visitors’ brittle batting and the fact that they have drawn only 3 of their past 26 tests, two of which were rain-affected.
Hobart’s propensity to favour bat over ball early on is where the value may lie. Typically Bellerive is a surface that is best to bat on first with three of the past four first innings totals reaching 450 or greater. That has generally been replicated in Sheffield Shield matches this season which have produced first innings scores of 8/432, 8/433 and 7/600. Add to that the aforementioned desire to ensure the test lasts as long as possible and it all suggests that the bowlers could be in for a tough time.
Given that the West Indies have failed to pass 300 in their last seven attempts in the first innings they cannot be trusted, however the data and likely conditions suggests that Australia are a better than even money chance of exceeding 450 when they bat first.
One of the few bright spots of the Windies’ frail batting in recent times is middle-order prospect Jermaine Blackwood who is averaging nearly 40 in test cricket and scored an unbeaten hundred against England in April. Blackwood has top-scored in three of the West Indies past eight first innings’ and should be backed to do so here at anything around 7.00.