Hawk Eye on India v South Africa Third Test: the Kohli conundrum

Virat Kohli
King Kohli

Ed Hawkins asks how best to bet on the India great for game three in Ranchi from Saturday...

"The tops markets are, as one Twitter user got in contact to say this week, "notoriously" hard to get right. It's one thing picking a guy to score runs. It's something else picking a guy to score more than the rest"

Ton-up or half salute for the great man?

Last week in this column we waxed lyrical about Virat Kohli's abilities to take top-bat honours in India's first innings. And he won. And so we waxed lyrical some more in the Cricket...Only Bettor podcast.

It is rare indeed in betting - whether it be cricket or tiddly-winks - one gets the opportunity to bet an outcome which occurs 45% of the time (two-year data) at an implied probability of 35.7% with the layers. Kohli is 9/5 with Sportsbook for a repeat in Ranchi. There is no doubt that after his seventh Test double he is in nick.

That sort of data dive is in direct response to several years of musing how best to make sound wagers on top bat (and bowler) markets. In days of yore - about three years ago - the perceived wisdom about such markets was to plump for someone with several planets in line. Was he in form? Did he have ground form (the psychological aspect of being at a venue where he felt comfortable was thought to be significant)? Did he have form against the bowlers he would be facing? If all three were present, as well as some technical deficiencies for some of his team-mates or horror runs at a venue, that might be enough.

Still, the tops markets are, as one Twitter user got in contact to say this week, "notoriously" hard to get right. It's one thing picking a guy to score runs. It's something else picking a guy to score more than the rest. That twitter user said it was best to go for 'to score a hundred' or 'to score a fifty' markets. And he wouldn't be wrong.

There is nothing more infuriating then betting a guy for honours, watching him cream a big century only to get pipped after a weary attack, worn to the point of exhaustion by our guy, gets pipped by someone else. Think how you might have felt had you, in 1946, bet Sydney Barnes for top Australia bat in Sydney against England. He made 234 opening the batting. The Don then came in later and matched him.

Kohli is 5/2 for a first-innings century and 11/10 for a first-innings fifty. Doesn't the stress just melt away when thinking along the lines of 'all he has to do is...won't have to worry what others are up to'. It is appealing, particularly on a wicket which could be very flat indeed in Ranchi. What often puts us off such markets is the counter argument: 'yes, but what if we bet him for a ton, shying away from top bat, and he wins it with a 70-odd'.

The answer to such conundrums is, as ever, in the data. Kohli is only a bet for either of those 'easier' markets if the prices are incorrect. We have good news.

In the last two years, Kohli has a century in seven of his 21 first digs. That's bang on a 2/1 chance. Even better, four of them came in seven home Tests. For a fifty, he is rated as shorter than Sportsbook make him. He's odds on at 10/11. If we extend the study period to five years, including only home Tests, Kohli is still value at 2/1 for a ton but perversely not for a fifty with a record of nine half-salutes in 23.

Rabada ready to raze

Kagiso Rabada has little to beat for top South Africa bowler. Our database tells us he should be 5/2 for honours. Sportsbook say he's a 3s chance. Get on.

Rabada is lethal and benefits from unique skills in comparison to his team-mates. No one matches his speed or accuracy. Vernon Philander goes close on the latter but not the former. Anrich Nortje manages the former but not the latter.

Lungi Ngidi, if fit, is his greatest rival on the market. But judging by Faf Du Plessis's comments after defeat in Pune, he might come up short. Keshav Maharaj's injury removes the one bowler we worried could have taken Rabada down. Likely replacement Dane Piedt is struggling and India's batsmen are toying with him.

Hawk-Eye P-L

2019 - points p-l: +38.03 (100 points staked)
2018 - points p-l: +9.86 (89 points staked)
2017 - points p-l: +5.29 (26 points staked)

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