Ed Hawkins: The top five most underrated T20 batters

Dawid Malan
Malan should be one of the first names on the team sheet
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Our cricket Ed Hawkins correspondent continues his series highlighting the players who should be judged on record rather than reputation

"Malan scores runs. Lots of them. At a very fast rate. Those two filters should be first and foremost. Pick him."

Dawid Malan

Ordinarily we would dismiss a player who has played only 10 T20s as one which doesn't have a study sample big enough to be judged. We make an exception with Dawid Malan for two reasons.

Firstly, his record is insane. In those 10 matches he has top scored six times. He has an average 52 and a strike rate of 153. He is one of only two England players (Alex Hales is the other) to have scored a T20 international ton.

Secondly, he is not underrated by just the bookmakers but by England, who have a bizarre reluctance to pick him. Despite scoring 78 off 44 balls on debut, against South Africa in 2017, Malan has played less than half of England's T20 games (22) since.

Why? The main reason is that England have found it hard to accept that Joe Root is not a T20 player. The selectors have raged against the dying of the light in the format for some time. So has Root. And only recently have both parties accepted that it is not his forte.

It's not the only reason. Generally, the use of analysts is hugely welcome in the game. But in Malan's case it could be an early example of analytics eating itself. Malan, the data says, doesn't score his runs the right way or at the right time.

This is the point where reality needs to bite back. Malan scores runs. Lots of them. At a very fast rate. Those two filters should be first and foremost. Pick him. Then, we can bet on him, too.

Glenn Maxwell

If the World T20 goes ahead in Australia in October the hosts will be justifiable favourites. But only if they realise that Glenn Maxwell is the man who can win it for them. Not David Warner, not Steve Smith, not Marnus Labuschagne.

Australian limited-overs teams should be built around Maxwell and nobody else. In T20 he should bat at number three, primed to do maximum damage if Warner and Aaron Finch are split early or have laid a launching pad for something stratospheric.

The big mistake Australia are in danger of making is being swayed by Steve Smith's uptick in form in T20. Bat Smith at three and, just like in ODI, their batting will suffer.

Despite Maxwell batting as low as five twice in the last two years, he remains a top-bat dream. A win rate of 34% has made him extraordinary value, not least because the aforementioned Warner and Smith take a whopping chunk of the book. Look out for one of them in our most overrated list next week.

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Manish Pandey

Pandey is the forgotten man of India's batting generation. A classy strokemaker who can do it all - find the gaps or go big - he has nonetheless been put in the shade by Messrs Sharma, Kohli and Dhawan. Indeed, he is far from certain to make India's next XI.

With five wins in 27 matches over the last two years, he has been superb value for top bat. A win rate of 18.5% might not sound much but when you consider he can go off as big as 14/1, Pandey comfortably holds the title as the most underrated T20 top bat option in the world.


Babar Azam

Babar is the most reliable top-bat wager in Twenty20 international. He has 11 wins in his last 22 matches and is one of those rare finds in betting - a player who is never likely to be too short.

With an even money record, one would expect the layers to give only a small edge. Maybe 6/4? But no, we've seen 12/5, we've seen 5/2. We'd bet him at any price above even money going forward.

His price for a 50 is also worth checking, particularly on a road. There is a school of thought that says that, due to inflated prices, betting a reliable performer on a belter of a batting wicket to half-salute, instead of top bat, is the shrewd play. And it could well be in Babar's case because of a superb hit rate of 34% for a 50.

Colin de Grandhomme

Big-hitting Colin de Grandhomme has at least a six percentage-point swing in his favour on top New Zealand bat with average odds of 7/1.

With five wins in his last 28, he has copped more often than Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor.

The chief reason is the promotion to number. But De Grandhomme is the perfect example of the importance of strike rate when considering a top-bat wager. De Grandhomme strikes at 143, compared to Williamson's 125.

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