Previewing the second semi-final from Dubai, Paul Krishnamurty warns against betting before the toss or on openers, given the nature of the pitch in previous games...
"Pakistan have now won 16 consecutive matches in the U.A.E....including today's opponents on all three occasions"
Pakistan v Australia
Thursday, 14:00 BST
Live on Sky Sports Cricket
In contrast to the first semi-final, the betting here is very tight with Pakistan trading at 1.910/11 on the exchange compared to 2.111/10 about Australia. That may partly reflect a massive toss bias at Dubai, which could very well see the odds change dramatically before the match starts.
Batting second is a massive advantage
Ten of the 11 matches played here have gone to the chasing side and the exception - New Zealand's victory over Scotland - saw the chaser get a lot closer than expected. Dew is a massive factor at this ground, as it was during the IPL.
Betting on the result at this stage would therefore be a wreckless plan. But, were all things equal, should the betting really be this close?
Pakistan imperious in these conditions
Pakistan have now won 16 consecutive matches in the U.A.E. and haven't lost there since England won at Sharjah six years ago. For a large part of that time, they played home matches here.
Those stats feel significant for two reasons. First, Pakistan have definitely improved throughout the period. Second, the vanquished opponents were not necessarily inferior. Only Afghanistan, Scotland and Namibia during this World Cup could be described as such.
Otherwise, they beat New Zealand four times, West Indies three times and today's opponents on all three occasions. Their skills-set is ideally suited to these conditions.
New ball battles could prove decisive
Good spin bowlers are always a major asset in the Gulf, and any Pakistan side has an array of them, but the real key to Dubai has been quality seam bowling with the new ball. Shaheen Afridi is particularly menacing on this pitch, although to be fair, that factor offers Australia hope too.
I can't find a weakness in this Pakistan side and am happy to run the outright bet at 12.011/1 advised earlier on Cricket...Only Better. However in winning all five matches, the key was strong platforms built by Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan. Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc could well make early inroads against them on this pitch and for once potentially expose the middle order.
Warner highly vulnerable against Afridi
I suspect those early battles will prove decisive. The threat posed by Australia's bowlers should not be underestimated but equally, their openers look more vulnerable. David Warner has put together a couple of good knocks against weak attacks, but he is still the rapidly declining force we saw during the IPL.
The line for Warner's runs is 20.5 - a mark he's failed to reach on nine of his last 15 innings. He's rarely paced a more potent threat than Afridi in those matches. Take the 10/11 he fails again.
Malik and Smith offer fair value
Indeed, my advice is to swerve both sets of openers, given the nature of the pitch. Whoever bats first may well need to consolidate and rebuild, so the value may lie with anchor-men.
For Australia, Steve Smith stands out at 6/1. He's barely been required to contribute since top-scoring in their opening victory over South Africa. Again, after world-class pacemen had ruined the top-order. That was Smith's third straight win in this market after the warm-up matches.
For Pakistan, 17/2 about veteran Shoaib Malik appeals. It was amazing to realise that he was playing international cricket during the 1990s and this is surely his last major event. Malik had looked over the hill during the CPL but he's played really well in this World Cup. Again he could be required to play an anchor role here and equally, his hitting at the death versus Scotland last time was phenomenal.
I'm wary of making any confident predictions about 1st Innings Runs strategy. Dubai isn't the best ground for backing extremes as a very high number of matches finish around par. In a competitive contest, I reckon par is around 155-165 but note the 192 scored by Chennai in the IPL final here. They may have saved a road for these last two matches.
Finally, try Josh Hazlewood for Top Aussie bowler at 3/1. He has been their best paceman throughout and will present a real challenge at the start of the innings.
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