Hawk Eye on South Africa v Australia Second Test: Smith and Maharaj top picks

South Africa's Vernon Philander
Philander should not be jolly for top bower
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Ed Hawkins uncovers an array of true odds value options for game two in Port Elizabeth, which starts on Friday...

"A slow, low surface is reported because of the home team’s worries about playing into the hands of Australia’s pace battery."

Maharaj a marvellous price

Ordinarily batters and bowlers can be pretty sure what to expect at St George's Park, Port Elizabeth. Seam and swing to respectively fear and cheer.

Look at the list of top wicket-takers at the ground and it is clear that this is a venue where pacers thrive. Allan Donald, who took three five-wicket hauls there in just seven games, tops the charts with 41 followed by Shaun Pollock, Dale Steyn and Makhaya Ntini. Indeed, Steyn wrecked Australia at the ground in 2014.

But conditions might not be so cut and dried this time. A slow, low surface is reported because of the home team's worries about playing into the hands of Australia's pace battery. Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins are very good. It could be argued Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander are not bad, either.

Still, this uncertainty tests our mettle for a wager on Betfair Sportsbook's top South Africa bowler in the first-innings. We would like to play with confidence because we believe the favourite to be wrong.

Philander, dangerous as he can be, is no 3/1 chance. Rabada cops more often. He is available at 10/3 when his real odds are 3/1. Morkel is also incorrectly priced. He is 4/1 when he is more like a 7/2 hope.

The state of the wicket, however, causes confusion. If it is as has been reported then spinner Keshav Maharaj comes into contention. Normally we wouldn't countenance betting a spinner in the first dig because there is not enough grip for the ball to turn.

But in Durban Maharaj took five wickets. And this was a ground where the likes of Philander and Rabada should have been swinging it round corners.

Pleasingly, Maharaj's odds are also inflated. It is he who should actually be the jolly here because he has a hit rate of 30 per cent on this market. The 7/2 could be worth an interest therefore.

Smith due for a score

By his own high standards, Steve Smith is on a poor run of form. He hasn't hit a century for two Tests. If he draws another 'blank' then it will be his leanest sequence for two years. He is insanely consistent.

We are tempted then to think that the natural order will be restored. He is, as they say, due. Betfair Sportsbook make him 4/1 for a century in the first-innings.

Of course the price would have to be right for us to get involved. We rate him as around a 7/5 chance on that market. He is 5/4 to score a fifty in the first-innings. Believe it or not his record is so good that the price is still value. He half-saluted in Durban to make it 26 fifties (or more) in 46 knocks.

Elgar underrated

As we said in our full match preview, Dean Elgar and Faf Du Plessis have terrific records at this ground. Elgar has two fifties and two tons in seven innings, Du Plessis two and two in six. It is worth exploring betting options for them.

Elgar is 5/1 for top South Africa runscorer in the first innings. We rate him at 9/2. For a fifty and century respectively Betfair Sportsbook go 7/4 and 7/1. We rate him at 3/1 and 5/1 purely on the number of times he manages either. His performance quote (1pt per run, 10 per catch, 20 per wkt) over or under 70.5 at 5/6 might be worth an interest considering he averages 78.

Du Plessis is 9/2 for top runscorer. No value. He should be twice that. For a fifty and century respectively Betfair Sportsbook go 21/10 and 8/1. We rate him at 15/8 and 9/1. Du Plessis' performance quote is over/under 68.5. He averages 70.

Hawk-Eye P-L

2018 - points p-l: -2.84 (29 points staked)
2017 - points p-l: +5.29 (26 points staked)

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