Australia v South Africa: Starc can be the game's star man

Mitchell Starc.
Mitchell Starc is the leading wicket-taker in the tournament by some margin.
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With Australia short odds to win, Jamie Pacheco has his eye on an overpriced classy batsman to top score and a good candidate for man-of-the-match honours...

"I’m surprised you can get 9/1 about Starc being man-of-the-match here. Remarkably, he hasn’t won a MOM award yet this tournament, which is extremely strange for someone who has five wickets on two occasions in a match and a further two where he took four. With Australia expected to win here and Starc in the form of his life, it’s a price too good to turn down."

Australia v South Africa
Saturday July 6, 13:30
Live on Sky Sports Cricket and Betfair Live Video

Australia much better for their changes

Australia's progress throughout the tournament has been fascinating. They started pretty slowly, were comprehensively beaten by India early on but recovered from that to just get better and better. No wonder they're the [3.15] second-favourites.

But what's really interesting is that it's mostly been five or six players who have been excellent rather than all of the XI each contributing. Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins have been really good with the ball all tournament, Aaron Finch and David Warner have been run machines from the start and Alex Carey has probably been the best wicket-keeper batsman at the tournament, including picking up man-of-the-match against New Zealand when his 71 off 72 from number seven was the difference between a proper collapse and a par score, ultimately a winning one.

What's really worrying for the other semi-finalists is that the two changes they've made have made them a far better outfit. The introduction of Nathan Lyon for Adam Zampa has given them much greater control in the middle overs while Jason Behrendoff has been brilliant, firing in fast deliveries at the stumps and the pads and providing a real wicket-taking threat that Nathan Coulter-Nile just wasn't doing.

Nightmare ends here for the Proteas

It's hard to know what to say about South Africa hat hasn't been said already.

There was some bad luck involved with injuries to important players but ultimately this wasn't a side of the same standard of the semi-finalists.

Simple as it may sound, they didn't have enough quality with the ball with star man Kasigo Rabada looking out of sorts all tournament and they just didn't get enough runs, or at least, didn't get them quickly enough very often.

Faf du Plessis (below) seems determined to rebuild his own and the team's reputation by staying on as skipper and good on him, but it won't be easy.

Faf du Plessis South Africa 1280.jpg

The talent isn't coming through right now and they keep losing important players to Kolpak deals in county cricket. The next few years could be a real struggle in the ODI format.

The odds tell their own story

At Old Trafford, India racked up a huge 336 which was more than enough to sink Pakistan, then New Zealand scored 291 against the West Indies, which they just about defended. A few days later Jason Holder's men were in Manchester again, conceding 268 first up against India and were never in the game while they were trying to chase that.

So very much a bat first pitch where anything above 270 should be more than enough.

At odds of 5/13, a defeat for Australia wouldn't be the biggest upset so far this tournament from a pure betting perspective but it would just about be from a sporting perspective. Australia have been excellent and are in with a real chance of defending their title while South African have arguably been the most disappointing side of all.

It may just be that if South Africa bat first and one of their better batsmen gets 100 they could put Australia under pressure but that's too much of a leap of faith for it to be a bet.

Khawaja looking good

Usman Khawaja has been something of the forgotten man of this Australian batting line-up. In normal circumstances 298 runs from eight matches would have been considered a pretty respectable return; it's not his fault that David Warner (516) and Aaron Finch (504) have been absolute freaks this tournament.

Khawaja is right behind them in third, ahead of Steve Smith no less, and we can make a case for him at really big-looking 5/1. That's almost twice the price of Finch (13/5) and Warner (11/4) and considerably bigger than Smith (10/3). He top scored last time out with a typically unfussy 88 and as long as he bats at his normal position of three rather than Smith or Glenn Maxwell being promoted ahead of him, should give us a very good run for our money.

Starc can finally pick elusive award

Personally, I think Shakib Al-Hasan and Jimmy Neesham would be just as worthy winners of the Player of the Tournament award as Mitchell Starc. But with 24 wickets, remarkably seven more than anyone else at the time of writing, we may already have found our winner. Especially with Australia looking likely finalists, at worst. It would be some achievement to win back-to-back Player of the Tournament awards given he also got it back in 2015.

So with all that in mind, I'm surprised you can get 9/1 about Starc being man-of-the-match here. Remarkably, he hasn't won a MOM award yet this tournament, which is extremely strange for someone who has five wickets on two occasions in a match and a further two where he took four.

With Australia expected to win here and Starc in the form of his life, it's a price too good to turn down.

Jamie's World Cup P and L

Points staked: 23
Points Returned: 17.72
P and L: -5.28 pts

Jamie Pacheco,

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