England v Pakistan
Saturday 10 July 11.00
TV: live on BT Sport
Is Babar a bet?
At some stage this summer, Babar Azam is going to go big. Will it be at Headquarters on Saturday after he opened the series with a rare duck?
Sportsbook have price-boosted the magic man for top Pakistan runscorer. From 11/5 they are tempting us with 13/5.
The point of this column is to detect a wrong price. We do that by converting how often a player wins on the top bat or bowler market into implied probability and comparing that with the implied probability that Sportsbook offer. After all, that's exactly what odds are.
Babar, on two-year form, has implied probability on win rate in the last three years of 22%. That, alas, is negative equity in terms of value. The 13/5 is implied probability of 27.8%. However, there is still hope. On his career numbers, Babar cops at bang on 27.8%.
There's no edge at the odds but as a punter you can at least be happy that you are taking a fair price based on a long history. And a player of Babar's quality can be followed in on such data. We often restrict win rates to a more recent study because form is far more variable with the hoi polloi. Babar is a cut above and always will be.
If you do bet Babar you need to make your peace with the fact there are edges elsewhere. Notably Imam-ul-Haq. We were on him for game one and the opener was out first ball. He was perhaps unfortunate England reviewed a leg-before that could have been dismissed as sliding down. It's not put us off because on recent form he is outstanding value. And for the record his career rate gives us 11.7 in our favour.
Top Pakistan bat wins/matches last three years
Zaman 7 t/25
Babar 6 t/27
Top Pakistan bowler wins/matches last three years
Afridi 7 4t/19
Hasan 2 2t/13
Rauf 1 t/6
Retaining faith in a player after a loser, or series of losers, is one of punting's great challenges. But it is easy when it comes to Ben Stokes.
Stokes didn't even get to the crease in game one as England chased a small total with nine wickets to spare. It downed a raft of bets from 6/1 to 5/1 about England's stand-in captain taking top-bat honours.
Naturally we go in again, reckoning there was something flukey about England's dominance which denied us even a run at the money.
Importantly, Stokes has a win of five successes in 21 meaning at the odds he gives us an edge of a massive 7.1%.
One will not need reminding what Stokes did the last time he was at Lord's in an England ODI shirt so there should be plenty of good vibes for the Durham man. Not that he is the sort of player who needs that extra factor to help him out.
Up top, Phil Salt and Dawid Malan are expected to open the batting. Salt was disappointing in Cardiff with seven from 13. Sportsbook give him a runs quote of over/under 25.5 at 20/23 and 20/21 respectively.
We have a slight inkling with Salt that he could be out of his depth at this level, noting how disappointing he was in the Big Bash and the Pakistan Super League. Indeed, in the latter he averaged just 14 in ten matches. In his last 12 List A innings opening the batting going under would have been a winner eight times.
For more tips from Ed and our other cricket experts, check out the latest Cricket...Only Bettor podcast...