The ICC Champions Trophy starts tomorrow, with the top 7 cricketing nations fighting it out over 50 overs – oh, and Bangladesh are there, too.
Presumably because they will encounter ‘English Conditions’, England have been installed favourites at 11-4, but anyone witnessing their efforts on an overcast day on Monday will have a sly smile at those odds. After 5 overs, they had amassed an impressive 20-6 and had it not been for the impressive Jonny Bairstow would have sunk without trace. The aforesaid Mr Bairstow is unlikely to make the starting eleven, with the selectors preferring a walking wicket called Jason Roy to open the batting, so, in seeking a bet on the outright winner, we go elsewhere.
This could be the time when South Africa lay to rest their reputation as ‘serial bottlers’ when it comes to big tournaments. The team has been ranked No 1 in ODIs for some time now and they deserve that lofty perch after some stellar performances.
Since the World Cup in 2015 they top the charts in opening partnerships, with Hashim Amla and Quinton De Kock the favoured pairing and, if you can get them out, in come Faf Du Plessis, AB De Villiers and JP Duminy, all hitting form at the right time.
After they have knocked up 300+, step forward a pace attack ideally suited to ‘English Conditions’ and the No 1 rated spinner Imran Tahir , although there is a slight fitness doubt there, as he tweaked a hamstring carrying out the drinks (yes, really). However, in Keshav Maharaj, South Africa have an able and improving deputy.
First bet, then, is a bet on the Rainbow Nation at 4-1 to win the whole kit and caboodle.
Our other recommended punts are in the individual player markets and we can start by staying with the South Africans.
Hashim Amla is the class act in this team and, given he is guaranteed to get a knock for as long as he likes, the 100-30 on offer to be Top South African run scorer should be snapped up.
Kagisa Rabada is similarly guaranteed to bowl his 10 in every match and, if you’ve not seen him bowl, he chucks accurate 90mph balls down without apparent effort. At 7-2 to be Top South African wicket-taker, this could be a gift.
Two other bowlers stand out at the prices:
Umesh Yadav may not be as glamorous or high profile as the Jadejas and Ashwins of this world, but he takes wickets and should be backed to be Top Indian wicket-taker at a rewarding 9-2.
Finally, Pakistan may not make the semis, but in the three matches they will play, their ‘secret spinner’ may wreak a bit of havoc. Shadab Khan is the name, Top Pakistan wicket-taker is the market and 9-2 are the odds of reward.
Now sit back, relax and listen to the English commentators trying to pronounce Andile Phehlukwaya.