Our cricket correspondent crucnhes the numbers to reveal the names who rarely let you down...
"Taylor trumps Kane Williamson (a win rate of 22.5%) for top runscorer honours consistently and should be favourite on the market"
This is not after-timing, despite what you might think following Paul Stirling's brilliant match-winning century against England at the Ageas Bowl on Tuesday.
Stirling was recommended for top bat in each of the three matches against their neighbours, proving the virtue of patience and consistency for the punters when it comes to wrong prices. Stirling now has nine wins in his last 22 matches, which meant that he was a corker of a bet at 7/2. And likewise at 4/1 in game two. Stirling's win rate is now 41%, which is closer to 6/4.
Now, of course we don't expect Stirling to be such a price, we are merely pointing out the whopping edge in punters' favour. When Stirling next comes up against a fellow Associate nation - probably next year with the Irish having no further cricket agreed, sadly - he will probably be more like 11/4. But he will still be value.
Cricket is a game of fine margins and anyone who saw Ross Taylor sawn off in last year's World Cup final will agree. Had Taylor benefited from a review (Martin Guptill had burned the Kiwis' last), New Zealand's Mr Dependable looked set to marshal their first-innings total to suffer more than the 260 mark. Instead, the ball was missing leg-stump and New Zealand managed 241. And everyone knows what happened next.
Some might take issue with that. Or the Mr Dependable tag. While the former is debatable, the latter is not. Taylor trumps Kane Williamson (a win rate of 22.5%) for top runscorer honours consistently and should be favourite on the market. With a win rate of 28.8% in the last two-and-a-bit years, it is barely believable that he is going off as big as 5/1. That's 12.1% points in our favour.
With Taylor being New Zealand's highest all-time runscorer, it is hard to understand why he is underrated so much.
For some, Hope was a major disappointment in West Indies' defeat by England. But that's because he is a 50-over player. Anybody else who averages 26 in Tests and 52 in ODI would be pigeon-holed, rightly.
Hope does not have the technique to consistently score big runs in the longer format. Sure, he has the eye but Tests are about using your nose - get it right over the ball and give it a sniff. Perhaps in time the West Indies selectors will recognise they have one of the finest white-ball players on their hands instead of shoehorning him into all formats.
In ODI, Hope doesn't need to worry about technique so much. He can plant his front foot and play through the line. With a win rate of 33%, he is reliability personified. The layers are aware, offering 11/5 in matches against Sri Lanka at the start of the year. That's still value. But we could get chunkier numbers the next time he plays with that poor showing against England still in the memory.
We all know about the elegant Pakistan strokemaker who is tipped to be the next Virat Kohli. But enough about Babar Azam. There's only one man to follow for top Pakistan bat honours in 50-overs and it's not Babar.
Imam, with his spectacles and quiet demeanour, may not look like the sort who takes bowling attacks apart but he is superb in the opening berth at around the 7/2 mark. While Babar gets all the attention, Imam is the man who actually gets the wins - 12 in his last 34. Compare that to Babar, who can go off as short as 11/4, has six in 44. Babar is reliable in T20.
A big price to finish on. You're likely to get 8/1 or bigger about Klaasen, who is set to be South Africa's finisher until the next World Cup. He has three wins in 17 but with Quinton de Kock and Faf Du Plessis all the rage with punters and taking up a big percentage of the book, rarely is he a bad bet.
Klaasen had a superb series against Australia at the start of the year, notching two fifties ands a century from the No 5 position. Some call him the new David Miller. That's unfair. He is far more consistent and could be one of the most dangerous hitters in the world in the next few years.
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