England v South Africa ODI Series Betting: Morgan's men too short

Tahir's spin is a big weapon
Tahir's spin is a big weapon

Ed Hawkins previews a mouthwatering series between two gung-ho teams from Wednesday and is putting his faith in the visitors...

"South Africa come with a strong squad who have had time to bed in to English conditions with two matches against county opposition. In those outings they showed they have good balance and a bench strength which is enviable.

Recommended Bet
South Africa to win series at 2.111/10 (2pts)

England's three-match one-day series with South Africa, which starts on Wednesday at Headingley, is merely an appetiser for the next month's Champions Trophy. But it is a darn tasty one.

The hosts are the jollies to win the mini World Cup, at an increasingly prohibitive 3.9, and South Africa are the third favourites at 5.04/1. Moreover it pits England, widely recognised as the coming force in this format, against a South Africa team who are rated No 1 by the governing body.

In an age where one-day series are often stale and uncompetitive, this has a frisson about it despite its billing as a warm-up. The victor should see a dip in their price on the outright for the tournament proper so timing could be key for those considering either of these outfits.

England, naturally, are favourites to win the series. They are no better than 1.715/7 with South Africa 2.1211/10. It is hard not to reckon that the Proteas will be value when the market matures and they are 2.26/5.

They come with a strong squad who have had time to bed in to English conditions with two matches against county opposition. In those outings they showed they have good balance and a bench strength which is enviable.

Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla are a terrific opening combination and with Faf Du Plessis and AB De Villiers slated to follow it is a top four which is arguably the best around. All but Amla are ranked in the top ten and he's squeezed out to No 11 anyway.

Moving into the middle order is where they have options. Farhaan Behardien, JP Duminy and David Miller will be vying for two slots ahead of the powerful all-rounder Chris Morris. Wayne Parnell could float somewhere between opener and No 8 if they picked him. Then they can deploy the excellent spin of Imran Tahir. Kagiso Rabada and Morne Morkel are strong pace options.

When looking through their squad one gets the feeling that South Africa are the team that England aspire to be. Okay, chokers tag notwithstanding. But in two-team series like this South Africa are a mighty prospect. They have won their last seven, including a 5-0 whitewash of Australia and a 3-2 victory in India.

We are fond of England. They have terrific guts as a one-day unit because they play as if the result doesn't matter. The way their batsmen go after bowlers is reckless and terrific to watch. And for that reason you will always find us backing them in a big chase.

But that's the problem with England. They are always going for big numbers in the field. In the last two years England have posted 299 or more 14 times. They have lost six of them.

One day England's bowlers will click. They will work out the lines and lengths for each batsman and when to bowl them. They will work out how to hunt in packs. They will nail their yorkers or slower balls or knuckle balls at the death.

Working out when that day comes is the big one. It could be this week. It could be next year. But until it comes it is almost impossible to argue that they are value at sub 2.001/1 to win a match, a series against a team like this. Indeed, it is increasingly hard to consider them value in home conditions in the Champions Trophy.

There's nothing wrong with the players they have picked, or the balance of their squad. It is as good as it can be. Alex Hales, Jason Roy and Joe Root are a front three who will damage teams with the bat. And the nous and powers respectively of Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes in the middle order is terrific.

By my reckoning they are also the first international team - and this has been debated and pondered on social media - to bat all the way down to No 11. That highlights the value of their spinner, Adil Rashid, who is sought-after in the franchise T20 leagues. He's got good variations but can biff a big ball.

Yet those same bowlers who can bat a bit are the problem. Liam Plunkett, David Willey and Chris Woakes may be the preferred combination. But they are expensive. They are also the most experienced. Quite how Plunkett is still going round the park with his experience is anyone's guess. On the bench they have Jake Ball and Mark Wood. One fears they could be fodder for this South Africa team.

Smart money will be on a 2-1 win for either team. England are 2.47/5 and South Africa 2.68/5. Backing both at level stakes guarantees a profit. But where's the fun in that?

Given that the tourists are a fair chunk shorter to win the thing, we would be happy to side with them at that score if it wasn't for the constant English fear about torrential downpours. If feeling very brave they are 7.06/1 for a whitewash. If feeling foolish England are 5.04/1 for the same.

Recommended Bet
South Africa to win series at 2.111/10 (2pts)

Ed Hawkins P-L

2017: +11.41pts
2016: +18.1pts
2015: +38pts
2014: +31.5pts
2013: +25pts
Based only on available prices. Does not include back-to-lay in-running match advice or commission rate. Figures 2013-2016 on 1pt level stakes. New points system (0.5pt-5) introduced for 2017.
*Follow Ed on Twitter @cricketbetting

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