Paul Krishnamurty previews tomorrow's crunch Group 2 encounter from Sharjah. He remains ultra-positive about Pakistan's chances and recommends several bets...
"Pakistan look much better suited to these conditions. They have won 11 matches on the spin in the U.A.E. New Zealand, meanwhile, really struggled in slow conditions when losing 3-2 to Bangladesh in September."
Pakistan v New Zealand
Tuesday, 15:00 BST
Live on Sky Sports Cricket
Superb start from Pakistan
New Zealand kick off their World Cup campaign with what can only be described as a baptism of fire. Pakistan could not have been more impressive in downing India by ten wickets on Sunday and I concur with every word of Shane Warne's analysis.
What a statement Pakistan just made in the #ICCT20WorldCup2021 Now favourites in my opinion after that emphatic win over India. Just a super all round & impressive performance. Babar Azam continues to enhance his reputation as one of the best batters in the world in all forms !!? Shane Warne (@ShaneWarne) October 24, 2021
This is one of five matches previewed in the latest episode of Cricket...Only Bettor. As you can hear, I'm struggling to contain my enthusiasm for bets advised earlier on Pakistan to win the tournament; Mohammad Rizwan to be top tournament runscorer and Shaheen Afridi for top tournament wicket-taker.
However it is essential to remember that was just one match, this is a new day and that New Zealand represent top-class opposition. The match odds have shortened in Pakistan's favour since recording that piece. They're now 1.84/5 for the match, which is quite short given the importance of the toss at this ground.
Stats show strong bias to chasing side
So we assume, at least. Until 48 hours ago, the betting trends at Sharjah this year, in both this tournament and the IPL, were unmistakeable. 10 out of 12 matches were won by the chasing side and the two exceptions were the only two where 160 was passed in the first innings. Teams were really struggling to calculate a defendable total amid what have been very slow conditions.
Backing 'unders' on first innings runs was proving a goldmine. In ten matches during the IPL, the opening par-line for 1st Innings Runs was reached only twice. Both proved to be winning totals, bucking the trend for chasers. Last week Ireland started around 150 against Namibia, before being restricted to 125 and Namibia started around 120 before being skittled for just 44 by Sri Lanka.
Have scoring conditions at Sharjah transformed?
So far, so predictable but cricket betting frequently reminds us to never take such matters for granted. Prior to Sunday's match, Bangladesh started at 2.2 to hit 130 or more. That is as low as I've ever seen the line open for a top-class T20 side start, by some way. They duly hit 171 - landing a 12.011/1 chance on the top overs line. Sri Lanka still chased it down!
Then earlier today, Afghanistan and Scotland played on the same pitch and the former confirmed those easier scoring conditions, hitting 190 in the first innings. The change may have been due to that specific pitch but the commentators also noted the cooler weather so perhaps that is an issue to consider moving forward.
Note too that the Afghans chose to bat first, thus bucking the trends. It paid dividends but that may just as well be due to their obvious superiority, and captain Mohammad Nabi's confidence in his spinners.
Pakistan's record in U.A.E. is formidable
Regardless of the toss and these uncertainties, Pakistan look much better suited to these conditions. They have won 11 matches on the spin in the U.A.E. New Zealand, meanwhile, really struggled in slow conditions when losing 3-2 to Bangladesh in September. Granted that wasn't their strongest side by any means but they are likely to prove vulnerable to high-class spin, which these opponents have in abundance.
Moreover, Pakistan have the perfect balance in their bowling line-up. Shaheen Afridi may well be the best new ball bowler in the competition, as evidenced by destroying India's top order on Sunday. Haris Rauf is superb at the death.
Pakistan preferred across multiple markets
In the podcast, I've recommended laying New Zealand to score 140 plus, if they bat first. My instinct is certainly to back unders but in light of those last two games, I can only guess where the line will open. It may be considerably higher and that lay could in fact be closer to 1.251/4 than the 1.75/7 expected previously.
I do want to back Pakistan but, rather than taking the reduced 1.84/5, I prefer to resurrect the old '25% rule'. This strategy involves setting an order 25% higher than the opening odds, in the hope they'll drift at some stage. In this case, the target is 2.01/1. Lose the toss and it probably happens instantly.
There's plenty other ways of to back Pakistan. On Sunday, they delivered at 6/4 to score Most Sixes and Afridi landed Man of the Match honours at 16/1. Against inferior opposition (they started clear outsiders against India), I'm amazed to see 6/5 and 14/1 available about those two bets. Wrong prices must be taken.
4/1 about Rauf taking the most wickets is also generous given that he bowls at the death, and because it is much harder to bat late at Sharjah than early.
Speaking of wrong prices, whilst I doubt either will happen and there's a good chance neither will even get a bat, 40/1 and 100/1 about Imad Wasim and Hasan Ali to top-score are too big to ignore. Dutch them for very low stakes.
In those top runscorer markets, its worth a quick note to say the two enhanced batsmen are Babar Azam - out to 9/4 - and Martin Guptill to 10/3.
I'm not wild about Guptill's prospects in this tournaments so would look elsewhere for the Black Caps. Ed Hawkins makes a good case for Daryl Mitchell at 6/1 in the podcast, on the grounds that he may open. Kane Williamson is probably the most solid option at 10/3. The slower and tougher the conditions, the better for his chances.
Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty
Paul's T20 World Cup P/L:
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Place order to back Pakistan 3u @ 2.01/1
Back Pakistan to score Most Sixes 2u @ 2.255/4
Back Shaheen Afridi for Man of the Match 0.5u @ 15.014/1
Back Haris Rauf for Top Pakistan Wicket-Taker 1u @ 5.04/1
Back Imad Wasim for Top Pakistan Runscorer 0.2u @ 41.040/1
Back Hasan Ali for Top Pakistan Runscorer 0.1u @ 101.0100/1