Ed Hawkins: The top five most underrated Test bowlers

Kemar Roach
Roach is the most underrated player in the world

Our cricket correspondent scans the data to reveal the Test bowlers whose records are bigger than their reputations...

"Roach's remarkable hit rate is gathered from the last two-and-a-bit years of data when, in fact, there has been strong competition in the Windies pace ranks"

Kemar Roach

Kemar Roach is the most reliable punting prospect in Test cricket. Forget all the big names, whether they be batters or bowlers, no-one can come close to Roach's extraordinary win rate - an astonishing 50%.

True, in the past Roach has had little to beat on the top West Indies bowler market. But the 31-year-old is a master with new ball and old, a whippy, elastic action generating pace and bounce which consistently surprises the opposition despite having played 56 Tests.

Roach's remarkable hit rate is gathered from the last two-and-a-bit years of data when, in fact, there has been strong competition in the Windies pace ranks. The dewy-eyed have almost (but not quite) been ready to hark back to the great old days. Shannon Gabriel terrorised batsmen for a short while before injury slowed his pace while Jason Holder has been a reliable performer. Gabriel, alas, is recovering from ankle surgery and is unlikely to feature in the Test series against England next month.

The good news is that Roach, as attack leader, will make the trip. It will be interesting to see how short he is priced for top bowler for game one in Southampton on July 8 but it will be a question of how low Betfair Sportsbook are prepared to go. The good news is that it will not be close to the even money his record suggests he deserves.

Pat Cummins

'Just Back Pat', inspired by Alan Partridge's self-serving 'Just Sack Pat' mantra, is one of punting life's rules which can be relied on. Despite being recognised as the world's best fast bowler by the ICC on their official rankings, he still rates as value.

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Cummins has a 30% win rate on the top first-innings bowler market. His most recent win was against New Zealand at the MCG in December. In a crowded marketplace - Mitchell Starc, Josh hazlewood and Nathan Lyon might fancy themselves to be part of this list - Cummins comes out on top.

Of course the bookies know this. But they're not quite short enough and we were still getting 5/2 during that Kiwi series. That is the price for the notebook.

Ravi Ashwin

The last time we wrote about Ravi Ashwin was with our jaws on the floor. Betfair Sportsbook had priced him up at 4/1 to be top India bowler against West Indies in the first Test at North Sound last year. By our data (how many times he actually wins) he should have been 13/8.

But they knew something we didn't. Ashwin didn't even get the chance to win. India didn't even pick him, preferring Ravi Jadeja who, at the time, had one top bowler win in his previous nine Tests. He is now one in 17.

Ashwin, of course, has returned to the XI and has notched two more wins, bringing down his win rate to 33.3%. With that record behind him and with Jasprit Bumrah (oh look, he's on our overrated list) taking up a big chunk of the book we can pile into anything bigger than 2/1.

On home pitches, the margin is going to be tighter but you're likely tos till be in play. Away from home, however, is where the big numbers come up and we can make hay.

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Neil Wagner and Tim Southee

Like Cummins, there is something reassuring about our list dovetailing with the ICC rankings. Wagner and Southee are at Nos 2 and 4 respectively.

But they do not take favourite status when it comes to top New Zealand bowler. That honour goes to Trent Boult. Boult is not overrated or underrated. His price of around 5/2 is slightly too skinny but, in fairness, it's pretty much bang on. Boult has win rate of 25%, Wagner 33% and Southee 31%.

With Boult so popular - punters are wowed by that explosive pace and swing and the potential for him to rip through a top order - Wagner and Southee are pushed out to ther 3/1 mark. Both tick the value box.

How do we make up our mind between the two? Easy. On something fast and bouncy, Wagner is your man. If the ball is expected to swing, Southee will be to the fore.

As ever, there is a fly in the soothing ointment. The emergence of beanpole bowling all-rounder Kyle Jamieson could undo all our data work. One to watch for sure.

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