Ed Hawkins reveals one of the best top bat bets in T20 - but will he get a chance in East London on Wednesday?
"With Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan and Tom Banton all named in the squad England appear intent on some sort of ridiculous audition for the two leading roles"
South Africa v England
Wednesday 12 February, 16:00
Live on Sky Sports
Buttler did it
England have only nine T20s before they begin their quest to become the first side to hold both world titles (50-over and 20) at the same time. We will find out a lot sooner how switched on they are to making the most of their assets.
In Jos Buttler England have one of the most destructive opening batsmen in the format. But do they realise? If they do and Buttler opens the batting at Buffalo Park then England's brains trust may well earn our trust to consider them as significant title challengers. If not, then they may be listed as unit which doesn't have the required smarts.
It is no secret that Buttler is a sensation. After all, he can credit his return to the Test game with his promotion to opener in the shortest format. It was the 2018 Indian Premier League and a ragged Rajasthan Royals needed inspiration in a rain-affected game against Delhi. Buttler was asked to open. He smashed 67 from 26 balls.
It was no flash in the pan. Since then he has opened 27 times out of 28, averaged 46 at a strike rate of 153. The odd one out? There's a significant black mark for Lancashire who, despite this sequence, reckoned it best to bat him at No 4 in the 2018 Vitality Blast final.
What is most important to us is Buttler's win rate as top runscorer in the matches he has opened. It stands at an extraordinary 50% and includes eight wins in a row from IPL 2018 to the T20 international against India the same year. An even money shot. Betfair Sportsbook offer him at 9/2. Rest assured this is not ignorance on the part of the layers. They don't think England are smart.
It is hard not to disagree. With Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan and Tom Banton all named in the squad England appear intent on some sort of ridiculous audition for the two leading roles. It could well count against Buttler - and us - that he has opened in his last two England appearances.
We'll take the 9/2 and hope. But if not, there's still a four per cent swing on our favour across his international career on win rate.
England last two years top bat wins/matches
England last two years top bowler top bowler wins/matches
Jordan 4 2t/15
T Curran 2 2t/10
S Curran t/5
Since Dale Steyn last played a T20 for his country, the veteran pacer has thrown everything at becoming a specialist in the format. Previously he had taken it easy, hoping to prolong his Test career. But with that done Steyn has emerged as one of the most potent T20 bowlers.
It wasn't always that way. In the early years of the Indian Premier League, Steyn reckoned the tournament was a bit of a laugh. Later analysts suggested his price versus performance made him a poor value acquisition.
They have had a change of heart. Steyn's pace, movement and variations, honed after years in every condition possible, has made him a threat. In his last 14 Twenty20 matches he has finished top bowler four times and shared honours five times. That's some record. Sportsbook go 3/1 that he tops. His record suggests he should be shorter.
The big threat to Steyn might be Andile Phehlukwayo. The all-rounder is canny and has a fine record on two-year data. Sportsbook go 9/2 and that is toppy.
For the record, Quinton De Kock is about spot on at 23/10 for top South Africa bat. He's not played much in two years but if you go further back (last 11), the hit rate is spot on 30%.
SA last two years top bat wins/matches
Phehlukwayo 3 2t/14
Rabada 1 t/5
Dala 3 t/9
Hendricks 1 t/4
SA last two years top bat wins/matches
De Kock 3/7
Du Plessis 2/5
Van Der Dussen 1/9
Find out why Ed thinks England are his bet of the week to hit most sixes in the first Twenty20
2020 - points p-l: -7.27 (15.5 points staked)
2019 - points p-l: +30.25 (133 points staked)
2018 - points p-l: +9.86 (89 points staked)
2017 - points p-l: +5.29 (26 points staked)