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Nic Ladds 26th Mar 2009 - 14:28

A hero returns - just a little too late for England

West Indies obliged in the 2nd ODI and at odds of 4/5 there is no reason why they can't nick another win over England who are 10/11 in the betting.

The desperately close match market shows just how evenly matched these two teams are and as usual it is hard to predict with confidence which way the 3rd ODI will go, but momentum is with the West Indies and that is as good a starting point as any.

This pitch is totally different to the slow, stroke makers pitch in Guyana, and the Kensington Oval is where England made 600 and West Indies made 749 in the recent Test match.

As a result, the hero from last time Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who nudged and nurdled his way to 112 not out in the 2nd ODI may have to take a back seat to the likes of Ramnaresh Sarwan and Chris Gayle in the top batsman stakes.

Being higher up the order, and playing better on a fast wicket the two will have ample time at the top of the order to carve out a big total and the pair are 3/1 and 7/2 respectively to top score for the Windies, with Chanderpaul also 7/2.

England meanwhile will be buoyed by the return of the team's heartbeat, Andrew Flintoff. 'Freddy' hasn't yet recaptured his form of a couple of years ago but is a massive influence on team spirit and is a fine batsman and bowler on his day.

He can be backed at 8/1 to top score for England but this pitch should suit the likes of Kevin Pietersen and Ravi Bopara a lot better than Guyana and the pair are 11/4 and 9/2 respectively to be top England batsman, with slight preference for the latter at the prices and due to Pietersen's indifferent form at the moment.

Andrew Strauss, having hit a century last time should notch some runs on the board and is available at odds of 3/1.

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For a top bowler it may be best to stay away from 9/2 shot Steve Harmison until the starting line-ups are announced as he could well make way for Flintoff, and James Anderson or Stuart Broad are safer propositions anyway, both of whom are 11/4 in the betting.

Due to the nature of the pitch, a bet on the 'Yes' option for a century to be score in the match at 11/8 looks a cracking bet.

There were a whole host of them in the recent Test match and while this is a different format, both sides will be keen to score quickly and both have players who can make big totals.

It is unlikely this will be as interesting as the last ODI as the wicket is so full of runs that a chase is not so daunting and it is a 50/50 split as to which batting side wins in Barbados (first or second).

The pressure is on England still though as people still seem to expect them to come good and that they are better than what they are showing at the moment, and possibly a big innings from Pietersen or the return of 'Freddy' could spark a revival but I wouldn't count on it.

The truth is they are not better than people think. They have the potential to be but a dramatic improvement is extremely unlikely.

West Indies have held their own with everything England have thrown at them and they won the last game and should have won the first one but for the Duckworth Lewis debacle and with or without Flintoff, England are likely to come close, but once again be second best.

Recommendation:
A century to be scored - 'Yes' 11/8
Ravi Bopara top England batsman - 9/2

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