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View from Down Under: Australia the Underdogs Heading Into ODI Opener Against India

After narrowly avoiding a humiliating test series loss to Bangladesh last week, Australia is understandably the underdog as it opens its five-match ODI series against India on Sunday.

Already lacking form on the subcontinent, Australia’s hopes will take a further blow from the absence of top-ranked ODI bowler Josh Hazlewood, as well as Mitchell Starc, to injury.

Australia is No. 2 in the ODI rankings and could regain top spot with a series win over India, while a loss could see it slide down to fourth below England.

Indian batting great VVS Laxman is predicting a big series win based on Australia’s weakened bowling lineup.

“Last time when they were here (2013), it was highly competitive because they had a good bowling lineup. This time the bowling department looks very weak,” he said. But there is hope.

Captain Steve Smith, David Warner, Travis Head and all-rounder Marcus Stoinis brought up half centuries and Ashton Agar claimed four wickets in a 103-run victory over Indian Board President’s XI this week.

Australian punters will see value in the $2.20 (+120) on offer from William Hill for an Aussie win on Sunday, while India is at $1.67 (-149).

Back at home, football finals continue to attract betting attention, with Geelong facing a must-win AFL semifinal against the Sydney Swans on Friday.

The Cats looked well below their best against Richmond last week, while the Swans have won 15 of their past 17 matches, including a lopsided win over Essendon on the weekend.

The West Coast Eagles claimed a nail-biting extra-time win over Port Adelaide last week, but will need to do better when they travel to Greater Western Sydney on Saturday.

GWS will be without Shane Mumford after their loss to the minor premier Adelaide Crows, but are expected to see another week of finals footy.

GWS is on $1.44 (-277) to take the home win, with $2.80 (+180) for the Eagles. In the NRL, the Penrith Panthers face the daunting task of beating the Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.

Penrith coach Anthony Griffin made way for the return of Wayne Bennett at the Broncos in 2014 and has a strong record against the man who displaced him.

Bennett has won less than one in five of his matchups against Griffin-coached sides, and lost his only final against the coach in 2011.

Much of the Broncos’ prospects rest with the fitness of skipper Darius Boyd, who is on the extended bench and racing to be ready for the game.

Regardless, the Broncos are heavy favorites to down the Panthers at $1.40 (-250) for the win and $3 (+200) for the loss.

The Parramatta Eels are even bigger favorites to defeat the North Queensland Cowboys on Saturday.

After a narrow 18-16 loss to minor premiers Melbourne last week, the Eels are on just $1.35 (-286) to dispatch the Cowboys.

The injury-hit Cowboys shocked Cronulla in extra time last week, but will need to step up to have a chance against the Eels, paying $3.25 (+225) for the win.

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