Betting Masterclass Volume 3: Ed Hawkins on how to bet on ODI cricket

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Our cricket correspondent Hawkins rounds up his guide to betting on the main formats of the sport with his key points to successful wagering on the 50-over game...

"What we fear in an ODI team - or, rather, what puts us off backing them on an outright or for a match win - is if they are one-dimensional. We want to be with a team who can bat, field and bowl to a good standard, rather than have an eye-catching batting line-up, field like schoolkids and have one way of bowling."

The World Cup is considered the pinnacle of the international game. Rightfully so. And with another World Cup cycle just beginning, teams are ripping up their rosters and starting again, searching for the two or three players that can turn an average team into a good one or, in the case of world champions England, trying to maintain hunger and desire.

Bettors have to be alert to the changes, too. One-day international betting requires more discipline than a format like T20 because value opportunities present themselves less regularly. And they may occur - or disappear - with a tweak here or there in a team's make-up. Over a potential 100 overs it is a tougher game for an underdog. And unlike in Tests, there are fewer variables to help reduce the gulf. But if you follow the below, it can still be a richly rewarding punting experience...

All-round strength key

In Test and T20 cricket, excellent bowling attacks should be pedestalled. Is it the same in ODI? Probably not, although we would still rather be on a good bowling unit instead of a good batting unit, particularly because of the prevalence for flat batting wickets.

What we fear in an ODI team - or, rather, what puts us off backing them on an outright or for a match win - is if they are one-dimensional. We want to be with a team who can bat, field and bowl to a good standard, rather than have an eye-catching batting line-up, field like schoolkids and have one way of bowling.

England, as it transpired, were a solid all-round team in the most recent World Cup. And they beat New Zealand in the final, who were likewise. The two teams who fitted that criteria (although there's a caveat with England, but more of that later) then justified their positions in the showpiece. It was notable that they beat teams in the semi-finals who weren't.

England overcame an Australia team who had a strong varied bowling attack, fielded well but...crucially, were over-reliant on fast runs from David Warner. Their batting had consistently underperformed for two years or more in scoring quickly enough.

New Zealand beat India, a top and tail team. India were heavily reliant on their much-vaunted front three with the bat, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli, and their new-ball and death bowler Jasprit Bumrah. They had little in between. The Kiwis were able to exploit that perfectly in helpful bowling conditions.

Knowing where teams are weak - the only perfect ODI team there has ever been is the threepeat Aussies from 1999 to 2007 - is key to making money. But that weakness still has to be applied sensibly. Blithely saying India have no middle order is fine on a bowler-friendly track but it's not much use if it's flatter than a motorway.

Whether betting on an outright or match odds, a punter must 'war game' scenarios. What do India do if that front three are rolled over with 30 on the board on a seamer? Who comes to the rescue? If a team like Australia has got off to a flyer through Warner and Aaron Finch, do they have the batting power lower down to propel them to a match-winning score?

As similar questions about bowling line-ups. One maxim is that a bowling attack is only as strong as its weakest bowler. A team might boast four top-notch seamers but where is the spinner? What will happen when they need the fifth and sixth options have to come onto bowl and their economy rates are through the roof?

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Be flexible

In Test cricket, a team's characteristic may never change. As discussed in the masterclass, punters can rely on India struggling in seaming or swinging conditions. Or England being terrified by pace in Australia. Not so in ODI.

Teams are able to overcome their foibles in particular conditions because of short matches - 50 overs is rarely long enough for a flaw to be exposed, unlike 400 - and limited-overs specialists are picked to do a job over small periods of the game.

India and Pakistan are good examples. Subscribing to the Test masterclass, both should have found life hard in the ICC Champions Trophy editions in England in 2013 and 2017. But they won the titles in those respective years, Pakistan actually beating India in the final three years ago.

More recently, England have proved that a team can transition almost overnight from also-rans to world beaters. After their disastrous World Cup campaign in 2015 when they failed to get out of the group, captain Eoin Morgan immediately demanded a change in mindset. It was attack-based with specialist players selected to implement.

It was easy to spot. In England's very next match they ripped up the record books to smash 408 against World Cup runners-up New Zealand. There was no looking back.

What England did do, however, was prioritise batting power over bowling power. This was considered a major weakness before their title win in 2019 and put many off backing them for glory at prohibitive odds. It meant they struggled to defend totals and would regularly get hit to all corners of the park, notably against Scotland when they suffered an embarrassing defeat. But one player made the difference: Jofra Archer. A strength and weakness of a team can change on just one tweak.

Historically, one would write off England for the 2023 World Cup in India because they have not possessed the batters to be destructive enough on flat Indian wicket. Not any more. They are fair second favourites at [4.40] with India [3.60].

If there is a side to watch which could make the transition like England from no-hopers to challengers it is South Africa. They have a clutch of exciting, fearless and destructive batsmen, led by Quinton de Kock. All they need to do is release the handbrake. There's no guarantee of that but a whitewash of Australia in their last outing is a positive. At the time of writing (March 2020) they are [10.0] for the 2023 tournament.

Do your homework

The toss is just as important in ODI as it is in Test matches and it absolutely must be factored into your wagers. That's because there are some teams who are better at setting a target and defending than others. Or some teams who are hopeless in a chase.

In February 2020, the first ODI between South Africa and Australia at Paarl provided a perfect case study. Here we had the hosts priced at [3.00] and Australia at [1.49]. A mismatch then. But was it? This was what our preview said: "South Africa are not without hope. They have to bat first and in the chase try to put the squeeze on Australia, who have a terrible record away from home going after targets. It's only six wins in their last 17."

South Africa batted first and did just that to Australia, winning by 76 runs. They were only a bet if they batted first because of Australia's consistent issues chasing abroad. Imagine having wagered the Aussies at skinny odds without checking for bias?

As we said above, it might take a tweak in selection for Australia to debunk that record (a returning Glenn Maxwell maybe).

Other current trends of note are: India chasing at home (nine wins in 13), Pakistan batting first away (10 wins in 22), West Indies batting first (10 wins in 32). It's important to keep on top of these by checking Cricinfo's Statsguru.

***

Be sure to check out the other volumes in our Betting Masterclass series, listed below:

Volume 1 - Ed Hawkins on Test Cricket
Volume 2 - Ed Hawkins on Twenty20 Cricket

ICC Cricket World Cup 2023: ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 (Winner)

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