The curious case of Steve Smith
Off the back of an extraordinary 211 in Manchester, Steve Smith went into the next Ashes Test at The Oval in September 2019 as the even-money favourite for top Australia first-innings runscorer. It is one of the skinniest prices ever seen.
Anyone who saw him toy with the England attack that summer expected the beginning of a new era of one man dominating all and sundry with an idiosyncratic style of shovels, slashes and swished leaves. But the only thing idiosyncratic has been Smith's poor run. He didn't win in South London. And he hasn't won since that Old Trafford epic.
Smith has gone seven matches without rewarding his backers. And in all innings he has only two fifties in 11. By his lofty standards, that is a poor return. From English coaches, analysts, pundits and ex-pros scratching their heads as to how to get him out, it's actually been pretty easy as Smith has developed a habit of nicking off or hitting the ball in the air.
The sequence means that for the first time in two years Smith is actually value for honours. The 9/4 that Sportsbook offer give punters who are interested in real-time win rates an edge of three points.
We are also keen on another established, strong performer producing a surge - Pat Cummins. Cummins has not suffered a dip in form at all. It's just that his bowling team-mates have been in slightly better nick for wins on the top bowler.
Cummins is still regarded as the best bowler in the world. Last week in Adelaide Cummins took three for 48 in the first dig. He was pipped by Mitchell Starc with four as the left-armer once again proved the No 1 pink-ball destroyer. In the second innings Cummins took four. But Josh Hazlewood took five.
We didn't back Cummins in that Adelaide Test because we were wary of Starc's pink-ball prowess. But we see no reason to swerve him this time. The 'G suits him perfectly. In three Tests he has an insane strike rate of a wicket every 36 balls with 23 across three matches.
As a special festive treat, Sportsbook have priced Smith and Cummins in a double to be top Australia bat and top bowler respectively in the #OddsOnThat section. This double pays 10/1. It's worth a nibble for a Boxing Day bonanaza.
Australia top bat/wins
Paine 2 1t/28
India top batsman wins/matches
Ashwin 1/22 -
Australia top bowler wins/matches
Lyon 8 4t/43
Hazelwood 7 4t/35
Starc 10 2t/34
Cummins 11 4t/30
India top bowler wins/matches
Bumrah 2 t/14
Shami 3 2t/26
Ashwin 8 2t/22
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