Ed Hawkins previews the final of the Mzansi Super League with Spartans poised for an unlikely win
"With that toss bias in their favour then, and the price likely to hold, the Spartans represent a wager"
Paarl Rocks v Tshwane Spartans
Monday 16 December, 15:30
Live on BT Sport
Rocks face tough test
Rocks topped the group section with six wins from nine, earning a home final. They also twice beat Nelson Mandela Bay Giants, who were favourites to beat Tshwane Spartans in the 'semi-final' and set up a third encounter.
Confident and well-balanced, the Rocks have had only two stinker days at the office. Unfortunately, both came against the Spartans who outplayed them, winning by eight wickets each time.
They have relied upon Tabraiz Shamsi and Bjorn Fortuin, their spinners, to tie sides down. In the first game against Spartans, Shamsi was got at. He went for ten an over. In game two he didn't have a chance after Rocks were bowled out for 126. The loss of James Vince to the Bash is a blow.
Probable XI Davids, Delport, Du Plessis, Verreynne, Pretorius, Makhanya, Udana, Adams, Fortuin, Shamsi, Mungroo,
Spartans find their feet
Losing paceman Lungi Ngidi in the warm-up proved to be a blessing for their knockout clash against the Nelson Mandela Bay Giants. It forced the Spartans to alter the balance of their XI.
In came all-rounder David Wiese and off-spinner and Imran Manack, out went Tom Curran, too. Suddenly they had variation in their bowling and a longer batting line-up.
Ngidi will not play - and is out of the Boxing Day Test against England as well - but when Wiese produced a man of the match performance, harsh or not, few will care. Wiese cracked 31 from 23 with the bat and then took three wickets.
Despite only completed five group games (winning three) and getting through the back door, this Spartans line-up is much more appealing to punters than when they packed their team with as many fast bowlers as possible.
Possible XI De Zorzi, Elgar, De Villiers, Klaasen, Van Biljon, Wiese, van der Merwe, Bosch, Morkel, Manack, Sipamla
Toss bias in play
Normal service resumed at Boland Park last time out in Rocks v Giants as the hosts, defending, won. Before this season, there had been only a 30% win rate for the chaser there. Before that clash, with Rocks chasing against the Stars successfully, Tshwane Spartans going after a target and then Heat going after a big total, punters had been confounded. It is hard to argue with the weight of numbers against the chaser, though. The five scores this term (1-2 denote match won by team batting first or second) read: 168-1/195-2/129-1/185-2/170-1.
Spartans look big
The Spartans are, perhaps not surprisingly, the outsiders. But many will consider them chunky at 2.186/5 on the exchange considering their two easy wins against Rocks. The De Villiers factor - prohibitively shortening a team - for once doesn't seem to be in play.
Last term, the Spartans duffed up the Rocks twice more. They smashed 203 batting first in Boland and in the return fixture, knocked over Paarl for 121. They seem to have something on them.
With that toss bias in their favour then, and the price likely to hold, they represent a wager. The weather forecast, by the way, is good.
Delport deserves jolly
Before a ball was bowled this tournament, Faf Du Plessis was the right favourite for top Rocks bat. But he hasn't copped all season, managing one shared honours. Henry Davids, another who should have been notching wins, is also in the red. Cameron Delport has found nick and should now be jolly ahead of Faf, 21/10 playing 11/4 respectively with Betfair Sportsbook.
De Villiers is 17/10 jolly for the Spartans top. On career form he is winning 30% of the time so we can't get involved as the price indicates implied probability of 37%. Openers Tony de Zorzi looks generous at 4s.
Sportsbook have produced an overs/unders quote for the maximums for the final. At 9.5 is 8/11 under short enough? In 53 domestic T20 matches at the venue, betting at the same rate would have been a winner 39 times. That's a whopping edge for those prepared to go short, despite some of the big bats on show.
Ed Hawkins P-L
Based only on available prices. Does not include back-to-lay in-running match advice or commission rate. Figures 2013-2016 on 1pt level stakes. New points system (0.5pt-5) introduced for 2017. Includes Hawk-Eye stats column p-l
Back Spartans bat first 2.186/5 (1pt)