Ed Hawkins deciphers the man of the match market and says the bat bias should return at the Oval on Thursday
"The relationship between top match batsman and man of the match is strong. Likewise winning team, top team bat and man of the match"
England v Sri Lanka
Thursday 1 July, 13:00
TV: live on Sky Sports
Go for big prices
After 20 balls of Jonny Bairstow's innings in game one against Sri Lanka, we were sitting pretty on a wager for him to be top match batsman. He had smashed 43, including six fours and one six, and had only 73 to beat. Another 15 minutes or so and we'd have been home and hosed.
Alas Bairstow chopped on from B Fernando on the 21st ball. Being bowled is a weakness - and a pretty big one at that - which keeps on cropping up for the Yorkshireman. So do we lose faith or keep it?
Unequivocally, we go again. Bairstow's form is strong. He notched a fifty in the final T20 after a couple of failures. Prior to that series he muscled an extraordinary 112 from 51 on one leg for Yorkshire against Worcestershire.
But how? Do we bet him at 13/5 for top England bat? Or do we play for bigger returns for top match batsman at 7/2 and 7/1 for man of the match?
The temptation is to take the bigger prices. The rationale behind that is simple. We're anxious about taking the 13/5 because, in terms of win rate, it is just too skinny. The latter options play strongly to the theory - expected to be confirmed as fact by the end of the series - that this is not a fair fight between the teams.
And that means Bairstow has very little to beat in terms of outscoring the Sri Lankans, who picked just two specialist batsmen in defeat in Durham. As discussed in our match preview here they have five all-rounders starting at No 3.
The relationship between top match batsman and man of the match is strong. Likewise winning team, top team bat and man of the match. It makes sense to reckon that betting man of the match at impressive odds is not dissimilar to betting Bairstow for top England bat. Top match bat seems a safe halfway house.
And yet Joe Root did not win the gong for his unbeaten 79, trumping Kusal Perera's 73. It was an odd call given the paucity of Sri Lanka's batting talent and match situation. Instead Chris Woakes, who took four wickets, got the nod. Woakes may well never take four easier wickets in his life.
Who - or what - decides the man of the match? Well, in this series it is the host broadcast commentary team - Sky Sports. One suspects the likes of Michael Atherton, Nasser Hussain, Ian Ward, David Lloyd, Ebony Rainford-Brent and Rob Key might, just might (and right at the back of their minds) have favoured Woakes because of the shabby treatment the bowler has received since the pandemic by the England selectors.
There is a strong bias towards batters which, on this occasion, was ignored. In the list of most ODI match awards in history, you have to scan down to No 25 to find a specialist bowler - Wasim Akram. Normal service may resume at The Oval. Particularly because, you will spot, all of that commentary team are batters.
England top bat wins/matches
Bairstow 14 1t/61
Root 10 1t/64
Buttler 6 1t/60
S Curran 1/9
England top bowler wins/matches
Rashid 7 11t/66
Woakes 7 9t/43
Wood 3 6t/42
Ali 3 5t/56
T Curran 3 2t/22
Stokes 2 5t/44
S Curran 0 t/9
Sri Lanka's top batsman market is wide open which is, strangely, frustrating. In a mismatch we would ordinarily take prices in the teens about all-rounders at Nos 6, 7 and 8. We can't do that.
That's because all-rounders are batting at Nos 3-7 and they are skinny in odds. Charith Asalanka, Dasun Shanaka and Wanindu Hasaranga are 9/2 and 5/1 the pair respectively. Ordinarily they would be at least double that individually. Hasaranga was our bet for game one and although he looked more than solid in notching a half-century we might give him a swerve this time.
We would like to see Dhananjaya de Silva get a go as he is classy enough to make the 5/1 Sportsbook offer look massive. If you want a chunky number, though, could Isuru Udana be a pick at 13s? Possibly. Otherwise Chamika Karunaratne did not look a 30/1 shot with some of the strokes he played.
Sri Lanka top bat wins/matches
K Perera 3 t/13
Avishka 3 t/11
G Jayasuriya 1/3
Sri Lanka top bowler wins/matches
Malinga 2 2t/4
Pradeep 1 3t/9
Udana 1 2/t10
Wanindu 1 t/13
How to bet on mismatches. This week on Cricket...Only Bettor
Ed Hawkins P-L
Based only on available prices. Does not include back-to-lay in-running advice or commission rate. Figures 2013-2016 on 1pt level stakes. Includes Hawk-Eye stats column p-l