Ed Hawkins analyses the game of South Africa's debut pacer and suggests he could give England - and layers - a shock
"The likes of Ben Stokes, whose price has collapsed over the last ten Tests, Pope and to a certain extent Joe Denly, could all be worth a nibble if you’re not too hung up about pure prices."
Beuran ciuld explode on scene
Kagiso Rabada's ban for excessive celebration, most would argue, suits no-one but England. Not the spectators, not the TV companies, not South Africa. And right down somewhere towards the bottom of the list...top bowler bettors.
Rabada was denied a seventh win on first-innings top wicket-taker markets in his last 21 Tests by England batting so stubborn and over-sapping that the pitch changed nature to a raging burner. Ordinarily, Rabada would have mopped up and he was on his way to doing so before Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope dropped anchor, letting in Keshav Maharaj.
It is a sore point that Rabada will not be let loose in Johannesburg, where his Exocets take on extra menace through the thinner, altitude air. He was a great bet with almost nothing to beat. Vernon Philander, with one win in 16, was inexplicably chalked up as early favourite.
Philander, then, can be swerved for top South Africa this week in his final Test. But what of his rivals? Anrich Nortje, Dane Paterson and Beuran Hendricks haven't played enough Tests yet to be considered worthy of examination for our database. Nortje has played five, Paterson one and this should be Hendricks' debut.
From the naked eye, Nortje looks like a decent foil for Rabada and Paterson a trier who needs help from the pitch. Hendricks, however, has an x-factor. His left-arm darts have impressed hugely in limited-overs cricket and while that is no guarantee of success at the top level, there is no doubt he hurries batsman.
Of the trio, Hendricks has the superior strike rate in first-class cricket, taking a wicket every 42.4 balls. Nortje and Paterson are on 49 and 46 respectively. For context, Rabada's rate is 43.7.
Also in Hendricks' favour is England's recent history against left-armers. Mitchell Starc, Neil Wagner and Trent Boult have all exploited awkward angles in the last three years. Mohammad Amir, too, over a shorter study period. Of course we couldn't claim Hendricks in in the same class but there's potential.
Hendricks also boasts an impressive first-class record at Jo'burg. He has taken 37 wickets at 20.32 apiece with a terrific strike rate of 31.89. Four times he has taken five wickets in an innings. Only this month he claimed hauls of four and three as Lions defeated Knights by ten wickets.
Sportsbook rate Philander as the 5/2 jolly ahead of Nortje at 3s and Hendricks at 7/2. Paterson is 5s. Hendricks could well be the value, even if he is unable to fill this column's criteria.
South Africa top bat wins/matches last two years
Du Plessis 4/19
De Kock 4/21
South Africa top bowler wins/matches last two years
Philander 1 2t/17
With England in transition, so to the betting markets for their tops. Witness Ollie Pope's cut from 8/1 to 11/2 from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth and 4/1 now at Johannesburg.
Pope is the great white hope for England. And punters to a certain extent. If he can hold at that price long enough over the next ten Tests, we might be able to start taking an edge.
Arguably, the likes of Ben Stokes, whose price has collapsed over the last ten Tests, Pope and to a certain extent Joe Denly, could all be worth a nibble if you're not too hung up about pure prices. That's because of Joe Root's awful hit rate of 15%. He's no 11/4 shot. Stokes is 7/2 and Denly 11/2.
Jos Buttler is underrated. Sportsbook go 9/1 when his win rate is more like 13/2. Do bear in mind, though, that he's in no form whatsoever.
England top bat wins/matches
S Curran 2/16
England top bowler wins/matches
Woakes 1 4t/22
Broad 7 7t/41
S Curran 2 2t/16