In the final match before Christmas, Paul Krishnamurty reckons backing Melbourne Stars to beat the total fours count is a gift...
"The market rates Stars superior at 1.794/5 compared to 2.245/4. It is hard to disagree, and perhaps understates the difference."
Hobart Hurricanes v Melbourne Stars
Friday, 04:30 BST
Live on Sky Sports Cricket
Less than a third of the way through the season, a sizeable and predictable gulf is opening up. Last year's finalists Perth Scorchers and Sydney Sixers, with six Big Bash titles between them, storming towards the play-offs. Melbourne Renegades are rooted to the bottom for the third straight year. Frequent strugglers Brisbane Heat and Adelaide Strikers are under early pressure to make one of the five play-off spots.
Today's match is between two sides caught bang in the middle of the table, and those characteristics. Frequent contenders and regularly fancied, yet both still looking for their first title.
Hurricanes batting form a big concern
When previewing Big Bash XI on Cricket...Only Bettor back at the start, I included both Hurricanes and Stars in a trio of quinella bets along with Sixers. There's still every chance if the play-offs work out right, although I'm beginning to lose faith in the former after successive hammerings by Scorchers.
Hurricanes have lost three from four matches but it should be noted they were all against the big-two. A good run of results against the rest and the play-offs remain easily in range. Indeed, three bonus points in the bank mean they can move into the top-four by winning this.
Stars look the stronger side
The market, however, rates Stars superior at 1.794/5 compared to 2.245/4. It is hard to disagree, and perhaps understates the difference. Whilst they have lost two of four matches, both were to Sixers and one was with a very depleted side. Last time they put together a highly competitive first innings total before being downed by the master chasers.
Team-wise, they certainly look stronger at the moment. Glenn Maxwell hit a ton last time and, with Andre Russell now in the finisher role, they have the power to record massive totals.
Is Stars' classy top-order overdue?
Considering Marcus Stoinis and Joe Clarke have only contributed 61 runs from seven appearances combined, their potential to improve is vast if and when that pair deliver. Neither has hit a six yet.
The law that form is temporary but class is permanent, suggests at least one of them will come good. Clarke's place must be in doubt but, if the Englishman does get another chance, 7.06/1 for Top Stars Batsman and 26.025/1 for Man of the Match catch the eye as potential over-reactions.
Hurricanes are also perfectly capable of big scores. They hit 213 against Sixers and, historically, Matthew Wade, D'Arcy Short and Ben McDermott have plenty of pedigree in this competition and at this, their home ground.
However three scores of 130 or less must be a massive worry and their middle-order isn't performing at all. The middle overs, against spin duo Qais Ahmad and Adam Zampa, could be a big problem. Were it not for what seems a systemic bias towards batsmen in the Man of the Match award, I'd be tempted by 16/1 and 12/1 about that pair.
Batting first offers a clear advantage
Given that a high total is usually essential to win at the Blundstone Arena, that further points towards Stars but yet again, we must beware the toss. 12 of the last 14 matches here went to the team batting first. 167 from Scorchers last time was the second lowest of those 12 winning scores.
Therefore, despite preferring Stars by some margin, I must swerve a bet on the match odds. Perhaps, if they get first crack, Hurricanes will prove a completely different proposition.
Blundstone boundaries within range for Stars
Instead, back them to get big runs and boundaries. A very high total in the first innings is perfectly possible and, in the hope that their top order are due to deliver, I recommend getting onboard if Stars bat first. 200 for the third match running is perfectly plausible.
Regardless of batting first or second, I love 5/6 about them hitting more than 12.5 fours. They average 11.5 from four matches so far, but that figure is weighed down by that paltry 61 when fielding a depleted side in their opener.
The Blundstone is normally ripe for boundaries - more so than most Australian grounds. The overs line for both sides combined is 24.5 - that was passed in two-thirds of the last 27 matches here. 12.5 about the clear favourites, stacked with power, feels very much within range.
The two OddsBoost batsmen are Matthew Wade and Marcus Stoinis, whose odds are enhanced to 3/1 and 11/4 respectively. Both make some appeal given their long-term records but preference would have to be for the former, because there seems little competition on current form from the middle-order.
Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty
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