T20 Betting Preview: Australia v Pakistan
Not the finest moment of Shahid Afridi's career as he's reprimanaded for biting the ball mid-match during Pakistan's recent tour of Australia
"But the captaincy has actually done him (Afridi) good, he’s been in fine form with the bat in Pakistan’s warm-up matches over here (and before that in the Asia Cup) and this is the format that best suits his gung-ho style."
Beaten T20 World Cup finalists Australia play Pakistan in Birmingham six weeks after one of the most dramatic matches of all time. What does Jamie Pacheco tink will happen this time?
The last time these two met in this format was one of the darkest days of my betting history. I'd backed Pakistan to win the T20 World Cup pre-tournament at 13.0 for a decent wager and watched them post 191 against the Aussies in the semi-final. They reduced Michael Clarke's side to 139-6 after 17.1 overs and I sat there in my living room trying to guess what price they'd go off at in the final against England and at what odds I'd consider laying off my stake.
That, my friends, was a pretty costly example of counting your chickens before they hatch. If you don't know what happened next, here's a reminder and I'll admit to having just re-read it because the experience was so traumatic that parts of that last fifteen minutes or so are a bit of a blur for me. All of the following probably goes without saying but I'll say it anyway: Pakistan traded at 1.01 for small fortunes, Mike Hussey was the most obvious choice for man-of-the-match since Jim Laker took ten wickets in an innings and Saeed Ajmal won't be receiving any Christmas cards from me in this or any other lifetime.
On paper Edgbaston is a neutral venue but in reality Pakistan will feel like they're playing at home with plenty of vociferous support amongst the Birmingham crowd. Australia would be forgiven for being a little disappointed that neither of the T20 matches are staged in London but support alone doesn't win you cricket matches and if the Aussies end up losing this mini-series I doubt they'll be blaming the fact that Birmingham is a two and a half hour train journey from Earl's Court.
Since that ill-fated semi, there are returns for all-rounder Shoaib Malik (after a suspension from the Pakistan Cricket Board for his behaviour during their recent tour of Australia), champion bowler Umar Gul (injury) and most intriguingly of all Shoaib Akhtar (mostly injury but you could come up with a fair few other reasons).
For Australia, Ricky Ponting remains out of the T20 picture and with the exception of Tim Paine coming in for the injured Brad Haddin, they could end up fielding the exact same 11 as they did six weeks ago.
Before I checked at the odds on Betfair I made Australia about 1.85 favourites. For my money these two sides are very evenly matched in terms of playing personnel and I only made the Aussies favourites because they've had more time over here to get used to English conditions and showed considerable improvement in the last two ODIs against England. So following that rationale I reckon Pakistan are big value at [2.5], especially considering that there are a few players in Australia's top order who have never faced the pace of Akhtar.
There are two very good reasons why backing Shahid Afridi to top-score is a decision fraught with danger. The first is that he could come in too far down the order and simply not face enough balls to be able to make a serious impact. The second is that Afridi is Afridi and could do something pretty silly sooner rather than later. But the captaincy has actually done him good, he's been in fine form with the bat in Pakistan's warm-up matches over here (and before that in the Asia Cup) and this is the format that best suits his gung-ho style. He may not give you a "good run for your money" the way that Malik or Umar Gul might because you never know what you're going to get with him but at odds of [7.0] I think it's worth taking a punt that on Monday he's going to be more Boom Boom than hot-headed loon.
The Australian top runscorer market is more a case of process of elimination. Shane Watson is always shorter than he should be, David Warner's strike rate is excellent but he doesn't often actually make big scores and in my opinion Michael Clarke wouldn't be in the team at all if he wasn't captain because T20 batsman he ain't. Cameron White and David Hussey will probably come in at 4 and 5 and certainly have the power to clear the boundary and score big but I'd rather be backing Mike Hussey at around [8.0]. Not because in some warped twisted logic I'll be feeling better about "that match" if he does top score. Rather because he's in good nick after that superb knock on Saturday afternoon and because I fancy him to bat higher up than 7, with Tim Paine dropping down the order to accommodate Mr Cricket's promotion.
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