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South Africa v Australia 3rd ODI Betting: Back the side batting first

ODI preview RSS / / 08 April 2009 /

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There are stats, there are trends and there are myths. And then there are cricket truths, one of which is that the side batting first at Cape Town in ODIs are almost guaranteed to win the match, says Ed Hawkins...

Cape Town's Newlands ground is one of the most beautiful in the world to watch cricket. Nestled at the foot of Table Mountain, visitors often have their breath taken away by the dominant and menacing peak.

On the field of play the story is the same. South Africa are virtually unconquerable on this patch of Western Province land. Australia visit on Thursday, their players sure to cast foreboding glances at an opposition who are a metaphorical mountain to climb.

South Africa have won eight straight limited overs matches there and won 12 of their last 13. But before one starts to heap cash on the home team, who are [1.87] with Australia [2.08], there is a punting strategy as clearly defined as Cape Town's most famous outcrop.

It is to wait. Wait for the teams to be announced, wait for Robin Jackman to complete his unenlightening interviews with the key protagonists, and most vitally, wait for the toss. Then pounce. With the contest under lights, it is imperative one gets with the side batting first. And if that happens to be Australia, so be it. Besides, there are few better sides in the world to crack ramparts.

Under lights at Cape Town the ball moves so prodigiously that only five sides in 24 matches have ever chased and won. And they were hardly even contests; India beat Kenya, Kenya beat Canada, South Africa beat Zimbabwe, and the exceptions, Australia beat the hosts and South Africa defeated India. The highest successful chase is a paltry 226.

It is not unusual for day-night matches to cause excitement for punters. Down the years it has become a cliché that the side batting second will struggle, not to mention a myth. It is only true at certain venues, and Cape Town is one of them.

The last time Australia played there (in 2006) they added to the weight of evidence to support that view. Terrorised by the bend Makhaya Ntini was getting in the night sky they crumbled to 93 all out to be beaten by a chastening 196 runs.

Two year previously it was the turn of West Indies to be blinded by the lights. Blown away for 54. Cast your minds farther back, to the 2003 World Cup, when James Anderson, fresh from Burnley's second XI took a hat-trick against Pakistan to swing England to a victory.

Thanks to the confidence that these trends give us, there are more potentially profitable markets to tap into, starting with the highest opening partnership.

We know that batting second is tricky so it would be fair to deduce that the willowmen who will find it most hard are the ones which will have to contend with the newest ball: the openers.
Granted, either of the opening batsmen for the team which bats first could well get a good one first up but the numbers are in our favour. The average opening partnership for the side batting first in the last five games under lights is 33 as opposed to the miniscule 7 for the outfit batting last. The market, understandably, is struggling to split the pair at the moment with South Africa [1.89] and Australia [1.97].

The difficulty of batting second is again highlighted when we look at where the runs are scored in the second innings. In the last seven matches under lights, an opener has top-scored only once - and that was the 14 scored by Shivnarine Chanderpaul in West Indies' collapse. The majority of the runs have come from Nos 5-6-7, although Shoaib Akhtar obliged at No. 11 with a quickfire 40-odd in that World Cup contest.Here's a reminder of how he did it.

The winner of the five-match series will be ranked the number one side in the world and both sides have suffered batting collapses in the two matches so far to leave the rubber tied at 1-1. So the stakes are high. In Cape Town, most likely the side that gets its nose in front will be the one which wins the toss.

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