Ed Hawkins finds wagers at 9/4 and 5/1 to cover the bases at a bowler-friendly Trent Bridge from Wednesday...
"In 2018 Kohli had a fabulous series. He notched 593 runs to banish any doubts that he had an issue when the ball moved off the straight"
Kohli can return to 2018 form
There are two potential theories to follow for the top-rated wager on the side markets in the first match: consistency or chaos.
On a green, seaming wicket under overcast skies at Trent Bridge, as discussed in our match preview, run-making could be tricky. India, in particular, are likely to find conditions alien, exploited by two of the finest artists in James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
History tells us that India will do well to bust 300. But who will get them close? Will it be Virat Kohli, probably the greatest technician in the world, or will it be a late, desperate assault after the top order has been blown away?
You don't need us to tell you Kohli can bat. Everybody knows it. But whether he is a wager at 9/4 is a different conundrum. On pure win rate, it's a yes. He has 12 wins in his last 33, meaning Sportsbook are giving us a massive 5.5% edge.
It could be argued that it is rare that you get such advantage about one of the all-time greats. With Kohli it's not. Sportsbook, as regular listeners of Cricket...Only Bettor will attest, are more than happy to take him on. And punters have been on the receiving end.
Kohli's form has dipped. In the winter when the two sides met in India he didn't top-bat once or even notch a 50 in first-innings. Those who wagered him will probably be saying "never again". It is worth noting that he top scored with 97 when India last played at Trent Bridge.
That was in 2018 when Kohli had a fabulous series. He notched 593 runs to banish any doubts that he had an issue when the ball moved off the straight. He dominated Broad and Anderson, too, scoring 211 runs against them for the loss of just two wickets. There is no evidence he has a particular problem against them on the career match-ups, either.
Kohli v Anderson
Kohli v Broad
The alternatives are slim. Neither Chet Pujara or Ajinkya Rahane rate value on win rate at 7/2 and 5/1. Rohit Sharma could be a walking wicket. But lower-order swashbucklers like Rishabh Pant and Ravi Ashwin are big runners. Pant is 6/1 and gives us an edge. Ashwin has one win in 29 but few would reckon that the available 50/1 is not worth the risk.
We do not rule out Pant winning the market with a backs-to-the wall 50-odd. The sort of innings that, when he retires, will have become his trademark. Ashwin is a proper all-rounder with five Test hundreds.
India top batsman wins/matches
Pujara 5 t/35
India top bowler wins/matches
Ashwin 9 3t/28
Ishant 5 t/27
Bumrah 3 t/19
Shami 5 2t/29
(t = ties)
Root has little to beat
In terms of technique and temperament, Joe Root has almost nothing to beat for top bat in England's first-innings. Root aside, England's top five has the durability of a digestive dunked in a hot cuppa.
The problem with betting Root is price. The 5/2 with Sportsbook is no way near value on long-term win rate. The problem with win rate is that Root would rarely have had such little competition.
Zak Crawley is a bigger conundrum. With four wins in 14 the 9/2 gives us an edge. But Crawley is in dire form. Since his epic 267 against Pakistan in 2020, Crawley has one 50. And that is the only time he has passed 20 in 12 innings.
England top bat wins/matches
Burns 4 t/24
England top bowler wins/matches
Anderson 10 6t/45
Broad 9 9t/52
England v India special on Cricket...Only Bettor
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