Smith the rightful favorite but don’t discount Root to finish as Ashes top scorer

WITH the lead up to the Ashes series dominated by off-field talk, it might be worth checking out some of the more specific bets on offer if you’re looking to invest in the oldest of cricketing rivalries.

With racism scandals dominating the cricketing headlines in England, and Australia losing their skipper and wicketkeeper on the eve of the five-match series, the usual tit-for-tat verbal joust that dominates the build-up has been notably absent.

There are only two things you need to know about the Ashes – Steve Smith and Joe Root will score runs!

With that in mind it is worth checking out the odds with the Bet365 UK current offer for the top run scorer in the series with Smith favorite at 11/5 (+220) and Root second favorite at 13/5 (+260).

Smith has a superb record against the old enemy, but there are suggestions in some quarters that the 32-year-old is not the force of old. Once you’ve dismissed that talk then it’s difficult to see beyond him for top run scorer.

The statistics tell you all you need to know: in home Tests he averages 67.72, and his average against England at home and abroad is 65.11. In the 2019 series, he was arguably the reason Australia retained the Ashes, the 2-2 scoreline having much to do with the batting form of the former skipper.

His performances were up there with the very best in cricketing history. A total of 774 runs in seven innings – he missed a Test after getting struck on the head by Jofra Archer – at an average of 110. One double hundred, two more 100s and three 50s gave a return that was the best series run total since Brian Lara against England in 1993/94, and the West Indian great hit 375 in one innings!

Add to that it was done in just four games and he is one of only three players since the year 2000 who’s scored over 700 runs in four Tests; and just for good measure, Smith has achieved the feat twice.

The numbers in 2019 were up there with the greatest in history, and Smith was only just returning from a 12-month ban for his part in Sandpapergate, the scandal of Aussie players tampering with the ball during their tour of South Africa in 2018.

Two years ago in England he faced a constant barrage on the pitch from Archer’s short-pitched approach, and in the stands he was subjected to boos, jeers and worse every time he came out to bat.

While David Warner – also banned for his part in Sandpapergate – struggled under the intense pressure, Smith thrived. There are few sportsmen in the world better at coping with pressure than Smith, and there is no team he prefers playing against than England.

It’s true that since Ashes in England, his figures have fallen: he averaged 36.28 in the summer of 2019/20 and 44.71 last season. While those figures would make mere mortals permanent Test fixtures, Smith sets himself higher standards.

He’ll expect to finish top scorer and there appears to be only one player who could potentially challenge him, England skipper Joe Root.

Root has single-handedly been keeping England afloat during a difficult last 18 months, topping the ICC Test rankings and averaging above 60 in 2021.

When Root is out, the Aussies believe they have England on the rack; the main problem for the tourists is that many in their own dressing room are likely to agree with that synopsis. But Root knows he must perform for England to have any chance, so he’s worth a bet at 13/5 (+260).

The only other players of interest in the runs corer list appear to be David Warner at 4/1 (+400), with the left-hander having much to prove after his dismal run in 2019, and Ben Stokes at 8/1 (+800), because he’s Ben Stokes and anything can happen when he’s at the crease.

Sandpapergate: An Act That Took Cricket Cheating to a Whole Other Level

When it comes to shocking moments, cricket has had its fair share over the years. While many play the game in the right manner, there will always be those who are happy to bring the game into disrepute all for a bit of extra money. Yeah, we know, it is not like they do not get enough as it is! We are now going to take a look at one of the most shocking events to happen in recent cricket history and it is known as Sandpapergate.

Australia in South Africa 2018

Between February and April of 2018, Australia were in South Africa to play four Test games – this was actually the first four-Test match series between the two sides since South Africa’s readmission, so it was meant to be a joyous occasion. However, it was marred by what the Aussies were caught doing.

In the third Test of the series at Cape Town, with the score at 1-1, Cameron Bancroft was caught on camera trying to rough up one side of the cricket ball with some unknown material in order for it to reverse swing. For those who are new to cricket, reverse swing is when the ball starts swinging the opposite way to what it is supposed to. with conventional swing, the ball will move away from the shiny side, but with reverse swing it moves towards the shiny side and is much harder to play. He quickly realised that he had been seen on one of the many cameras and quickly hid the offending object in his pocket.


At a press conference later that same day, Bancroft, who was accompanied by Steve Smith, the Australian captain, admitted that he was trying to alter the condition of the cricket ball using some adhesive tape with dirt and grit stuck it to form an abrasive surface that would scruff up the ball and help with some reverse swing. Just five days later, after an investigation by Cricket Australia, he changed his story and admitted that he was using some sandpaper that batsmen use to maintain their cricket bats. Shockingly, Smith went on to admit that he knew about this tactic because the leadership group had discussed it at lunch time.

Cricket Australia Investigation and Subsequent Punishments

Cricket Australia launched their own investigation into this shocking attempt at cheating and Bancroft, Smith, and David Warner were all sanctioned for bringing the game into major disrepute. Below are the punishments that were handed out to each individual:

Warner: Received a one-year ban from all domestic and international cricket and will never be allowed to captain Australia ever again.

Smith: Received a one-year ban from all domestic and international cricket and had to serve a subsequent one-year ban from captaining Australia. While that ban is now over, it is highly unlikely that he will be chosen to captain his national team in any format ever again.

Bancroft: Receive a nine-month suspension from domestic and international cricket and, like Smith, he had to serve a subsequent 12-month leadership ban. However, also like Smith, it is highly unlikely that he will ever be considered for a leadership role by Cricket Australia.

It Will Be a Long Time Before This is Forgotten

There were many players in the cricketing world as well as plenty of fans and cricket betting enthusiasts who felt that these three Australia players got off pretty lightly to say the least. Many probably would have felt that a lifetime ban would have been the appropriate punishment, and this is something that we find hard to disagree with.

Although it is three years ago now, these three players cannot play cricket anywhere without the fans in attendance reminding them about it. In the last Ashes series in England, they had to put up with England fans waving pieces of sandpaper about in the crowd. The Aussies have never been a much-loved cricket nation, and this dented their reputation even more. The players involved have worked hard to try and earn some respect back, but they will never be fully respected ever again.

The Bite Fight

Former undisputed world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson courted controversy throughout his boxing career, but never more so than during his rematch with Evander Holyfield for the WBA Heavyweight Championship at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas on June 28, 1997. In the first meeting between the pair, at the same venue less than eight months earlier, Holyfield had comprehensively outboxed Tyson, eventually winning by technical knockout in the eleventh round. It’s no surprise that the fight was twice held at Vegas, since stateside it’s key to both sports ans casino life. Whereas in the online world today we may instead check out the Online Casino Bluebook, in the late casinos, if just wanted casino or sports based excitement in the flesh, Las Vegas was the place to go.

The rematch started in similar fashion, with Holyfield dominating the first two rounds, but it was a series of shocking incidents in the third round that led the contest to be known as the ‘Bite Fight’. With forty seconds left on the clock, Tyson, incensed by what he believed to be a deliberate headbutt by his opponent, sunk his teeth into Holyfield’s right ear, removing a one-inch chunk of cartilage, which he subsequently spat out onto the canvas.

Referee Mills Lane stopped the contest for Holyfield to be examined by the ringside doctor, who concluded that, despite profuse bleeding from his bitten ear, Holyfield was fit to continue. Tyson narrowly avoided immediate disqualification and was, instead, deducted two points. Barely had the fight resumed, though, when Tyson bit Holyfield on his left ear. The second bite was not discovered until the end of the third round but, at that point, Lane disqualified Tyson, who attempted to attack Holyfield and his entourage and had to be restrained by the police.

Tyson faced a lifetime ban from the sport, but was eventually fined $3 million, given community service and although his boxing licence was revoked, indefinitely, by the Nevada State Athletic Commission – a suspension that, under federal law, had to be honoured throughout the United States – it was restored 15 months later.

So many big fights have been held at the MGM Grand over the years, and indeed at Caesars Palace, both in Las Vegas. . The next big fight for boxing fans will be the third encounter between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder at T-Mobile Arena in Paradise, Nevada on October 9th. It’s available on PPV if you can’t make it in the flesh of course.  The heady combination of sports (which inevitably results in sports betting) and casinos in Nevada make it both a sports fans and hedonists dream. There are so many options available on the casino side of things from slots machines as far as the eye can see, to roulette, blackjack tables and more. Serious money poker competitions routinely take place in Las Vegas and if you’re looking for somewhere to stay there are more hotel rooms in Vegas than just about anywhere you could care to mention.

One Arm XI versus One Legged XI

In 1848, unfettered by so-called ‘political correctness’, two teams of Greenwich Pensioners, resident at the Royal Hospital for Seamen in Greenwich, took part in a spirited, and well-received, two-day cricket match at the Priory Ground in Lewisham. The names of the teams are, hopefully, self-explanatory, but all the players were retired Royal Navy sailors, who had lost their respective limbs in the cause of duty and, hence, found a permanent home at the Royal Hospital.

In what I suspect was meant as a nod toward camaraderie but also respect for the service of those involved, the match was met with a positive reaction, and depending on how you perceive it could even be said to be ahead of its time. Of course nowadays sporting events for those with certain physical limitations are rightly heralded as inclusion and necessary in rewarding achieve just as they are in the able bodied. The paralympics was of course a recent brilliant example of showcasing sporting achievement in those with additional challenges.

Gone are the days where cricket had a narrow appeal. Branching out beyond the physical, cricket has been dragged into the modern age in varying regards. Take for instance ‘The Hundred’. This new format aimed at appealing to new audiences achieved just that, selling over 500,000 tickets, and reaching a TV audience of 16 million+.  Not only that, 57% of those tuning in had not watched live cricket this year. The key to its success was to involve both mens and womens teams (from various major cities across the country – making it more diverse). It’s a 100 ball tournament and all signs are that it’s bringing a new and younger audience to the sport, which can’t be bad. Of course Cricket already holds mass appeal all around the world, from the UK to India, as sites like attest to,  so hitting on new angles to keep things fresh and interesting is key to continued interest.

The aforementioned One Arm and One Leg cricket match appears to have been something of a ‘jolly’ for the Greenwich Pensioners, each of whom received an allowance of ten shillings, not to mention free transport to and from the Priory Ground. Eating and drinking were high on the agenda, with a generous lunch and dinner served before and after each day’s play and, at the end of the match, both teams marched off, with musical accompaniment, to the Bull Inn in nearby Shooters Hill.

While the players cut a dash in their distinctive veterans’ uniforms, their age and infirmity led to a rather comical, if good-natured, encounter, in which extras made a significant contribution to the totals in all four innings. The One Arm XI bowled 43 wides and the One Legged XI 30, while Mr. Sears, who batted at number five for One Legged XI, top scored with 15 in the second innings. All told, the One Arm XI made 50 and 41 and the One Legged XI made 32 and 44, although the batting was as bad as the bowling, with 21 ducks in the match, including five pairs for the One Legged XI.