It’s been a Test winter of discontent for England’s cricket team – seven matches in Australia and New Zealand, and a grand total of zero wins.
While the one-day international side sit on top of the world rankings, the Three Lions are in serious transition in red-ball cricket, with question marks over a number of the side picked by new selector Ed Smith to begin the home summer at Lord’s against Pakistan.
Our preview takes a look at just some of the best cricket betting odds ahead of that opening game at HQ.
Buttler to add X Factor to brittle batting
The big news from Smith’s first squad was a recall for a man who hasn’t hit a red ball in anger since last September.
Jos Buttler has been primarily a limited overs batsman through his career so far, and only averages 31 from his 18 Tests, but England’s new selector has long been an admirer of a player who’s natural talent is unlike any in the world.
Buttler’s selection is bold, if nothing else, and his counter-attacking from number seven gives a new dimension to a batting order that struggled badly through the winter.
James Vince has been discarded, while openers Alastair Cook and Mark Stoneman will certainly need runs early on if they are to retain their place in the side through the summer.
Still, England’s middle order of Joe Root, Dawid Malan, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes and Buttler looks solid enough, especially in more favourable home conditions.
Captain Root now has the extra responsibility of batting three – and has previous at Lord’s.
The skipper has three big centuries at HQ – 180 v Australia, 200 v Sri Lanka, and 190 on captaincy debut against South Africa last summer.
I like the look of his 4/1 with Grosvenorsport.com to be England’s top batsman here.
Smith has shown faith with fast bowlers Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes, who all showed promise amidst the carnage over the winter, and allied with all-rounder Stokes, the Three Lions pace attack looks well balanced.
They will be joined by uncapped spinner Dom Bess – into the mix after injuries to Jack Leach and Mason Crane, and the loss of form of Moeen Ali, who will likely make his debut this week.
England are a short priced 1/2 to win the first match of the series.
Dangerman Amir can put England in a spot of bother
It is only two years since Pakistan last toured England – though there aren’t many survivors from that drawn series.
Stalwarts Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan have retired, with Lord’s match-winner Yasir Shah missing out on a return to the ground where he took 10 wickets through injury.
All in all, just five of the starting XI from 2016 are likely to be involved here – showing that no matter the turmoil in English cricket, Pakistan will always be in even more of a turnover.
Most of their threat will be from Mohammad Amir – banned for his part in the spot-fixing scandal at Lord’s in 2010, but back as one of the leading swing bowlers in the world.
After England’s struggles against fellow left-armers Mitchell Starc and Trent Boult over the winter, Amir could be licking his lips.
The 26-year-old knows these conditions well after a spell at Essex last year, and if the ball starts moving, could clean up.
His 5/1 to be the top bowler appeals.
Home comforts to help England back to winning ways
England have struggled away from home for a while now – but that hasn’t seemed to have affected their home form.
Root’s men were very impressive in beating South Africa and West Indies last summer, and in more favourable conditions, have a fairly formidable side.
This may not be a vintage England team, and there are still questions remaining over a couple of spots in the team – but against an inexperienced Pakistan side, they should have too much.
I’ll be backing England at 1/2 with Grosvenorsport.com.