CRICKET IS SYNONYMOUS WITH THE sound of leather on willow. But not just with bat hitting ball - a wallet landing on the bookmakers' cash desk, too, as betting on the game has grown into a massive global business.
The layers regularly report huge bets on international cricket, which is played all year round, while there is increasing interest in the county game in England, which can be a goldmine for punters who do their research. Whether it's Test matches, one-day internationals or the four county competitions there is a multitude of markets to get stuck into from top batsman to how may sixes will be scored.
Despite the ugly match-fixing scandals of the past there is no slowing of interest in betting on the game. It is an enormous industry on the Asian sub-continent with the Indian market often dictating prices in the UK.
And as for spread betting, cricket could have been invented for it. It is considered the most volatile of sports, with large sums of money being won and lost on every delivery.
TEST CRICKET Stereotyping is not the done things these days but when it comes to betting on five-day Test cricket it is nigh-on essential. While in other sports punters are discouraged from forming a view about a side and religiously sticking to it, in cricket it generally does no harm.
As Test sides rarely change - a good crop of 15 or so players could stay together for ten years - their strengths and weaknesses stay the same, often because they are used to playing in conditions at home which are alien to the rest of the world.
And it is important to bear in mind these traits when betting. At the time of writing, Australia, the best in the world, are only really suspect against top-class spin, England struggle in non-bowler friendly conditions, India are poor travellers (their 2-1 series win in Pakistan in 2004 was their first over a fellow superpower since 1993), Pakistan and Sri Lanka slip up on fast, bouncy wickets and pitches that swing (they are used to playing on slow, low pitches) and West Indies batsmen are also dodgy against the moving ball (they lost 4-0 in England in 2004).
South Africa and New Zealand are pretty adaptable teams while Zimbabwe and new boys Bangladesh are the also-rans and not considered superpowers. England will invariably find it hard work on the sub-continent, but on the flip side the Three Lions tend to have the upper hand when India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka visit.
Bookmakers are generally switched on to this, although they committed an error when making India favourites to win in New Zealand in 2003. The Kiwis won 2-0.
Sometimes it can go wrong, however. The West Indies were favourites to beat England in the Caribbean in 2004 but foolishly prepared pitches which would suit the English bowlers and lost 3-0.
Those characteristics are best remembered for betting on outright series, while for individual Tests it is important to look at ground records, paying particular attention to the coin toss. This is crucial and it is often advisable to wait until the toss before parting with your money.
As a rule it is always better for teams to bat first as pitches get worn over five days of cricket. A worn wicket can be exploited by the most average of bowlers.