Melbourne Stars v Sydney Thunder
Friday, 08:15 BST
Live on Sky Sports Cricket
At first glance, the betting for Friday's match appears odd. Thunder's odds to win the title are are 6.611/2, compared to 7.613/2 for Melbourne Stars. Thunder won their opener in easy, impressive style. Stars were thrashed out of sight, yet are clear favourites for this match at 1.814/5.
A partial explanation may lie in the venue. Stars won six of their last nine matches over the past two seasons at the MCG. The other is that their line-up in defeat to Sydney Sixers was badly depleted, and a stronger side is expected tomorrow.
Much-stronger Stars line-up expected
Marcus Stoinis would always be a critical loss. News on various Australian websites is split as to whether he will return. The consensus is that star signing Andre Russell will appear, though, and his presence always affects the betting, rightly or not. Also Nathan Coulter-Nile is expected to return and Qais Ahmed may now be available.
Add that quartet and you certainly get a very different Stars side. Their bowling was destroyed by Sixers and fielding another weakened attack against this ultra-aggressive, deep Thunder line-up would be a massive risk.
Thunder off to a flyer
No team has been more aggressive in recent BBLs than Thunder and they've often been under-rated. I've got doubts about their strength without Usman Khawaja and Callum Ferguson this season and it looked grim when key man Alex Hales was out for a duck in their opener with Brisbane Heat. However Sam Billings and Alex Ross put on a fine 109 off 83 to chase the total down with ease.
That partnership meant Thunder didn't have to call on a formidable set of finishers. Daniel Sams, Ben Cutting, Nathan McAndrew and Chris Green cover positions down to nine, and are all highly proficient with the bat. Especially if Hales gives them the platform, Thunder remain capable of very high totals.
Defenders have the recent advantage at the MCG
Trends at the Melbourne Cricket Ground have transformed in recent seasons. Nine of the last 11 matches here went to the team batting first, but previously defenders had only won four out of 20. Overall during that lengthy period, chasers lead 18/13 but make of that what you will, and listen carefully to what the winning captain does and says at the toss.
Likewise, run totals have become significantly higher. Historically, the long boundaries made this a venue where 160 was a rare and impressive first innings total. Suddenly, seven of the last 11 have been over 175. Note the correlating change over those last 11 matches with the new advantage to batting first.
In this first match of the season at the ground, it is probably wise to hold off forming strong conclusions but there does seem much pointing towards backing Thunder. They're generally under-rated, started well, and arguably better equipped to land the big totals that have become necessary in recent matches at the MCG.
It is also a dangerous assumption that all these key players return for Stars, or that the newcomers start with a bang. Yes, we can expect a stronger Stars bowling attack than the one pulverised last time, but they may still prove relatively profligate.
Try employing the 25% rule on Thunder
With all this in mind, I will try an old plan, that has been shelved during a year of toss-affected matches in the U.A.E. - my '25% rule'. This is simply to place an order in-play at 25% higher than the pre-toss odds of my preferred team. In this example, that means enhancing Thunder's odds from 2.26/5 to 2.56/4.
Regarding runs and boundaries, the former makes much better sense if looking to back 'overs'. The Total Sixes line is 10.5, but six of the last seven saw fewer than ten (despite relatively high totals). Whereas both teams to score 170 - available to back here at 9/4 - won in three of the last four.
Long-term numbers point towards Hales bet
Today's OddsBoosts in the Team Top Runscorer are Alex Hales, enhanced to 5/2 for Thunder, and Glenn Maxwell to 4/1 for Stars.
The former appeals. Whilst I tend to avoid the favourites, my colleague at Cricket...Only Bettor Ed Hawkins has been making money for years from discrepancies in win ratios. Hales is one of the true world stars of franchise T20 cricket and has won this market for Thunder in 13 of his last 32 starts, which equates to 'correct odds' shorter than 2/1. Those numbers were recorded when competing with Khawaja and Ferguson, too.
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