Ed Hawkins looks at the runners and riders as the Lanka Premier League begins with game one on Thursday from Hambantota...
"Trade Kings if they can get a foothold at the 1.608/13 mark, something we should be confident of because the Tuskers bowling would do well if this was a Test match. Newsflash: it’s not"
Colombo Kings v Kandy Tuskers
Thursday November 26, 14:00
TV: live on Sky Sports
Colombo rely on Dre Russ
Colombo have put their faith in ageing muscle. Andre Russell and Angelo Mathews are expected to fire their title challenge. But there have to be major concerns about fitness for these two. Mathews has not played since August and Russell hasn't been 100% for yonks. If one, or both, breakdown, they are in trouble.
The pace bowling department was supposed to be led by Lasith Malinga but he's not shown up. Isuru Udana, off the back of a decent IPL, could be their most pivotal player with the ball, and bashing late order runs. Dinesh Chandimal is a disaster waiting to happen in the middle order. He is not a T20 batter. The best decision they could make all tournament would be not to play him.
Possible XI Bell-Drummond, Evans, Priyanjan, Russell, Chandimal, Matthews, Udana, Ahmed, Aponso, Vandersay, Chameera
The Tuskers are the outright favourites and it is easy to see why. In Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera and Asela Gunaratne they have good domestic hitters. They were dealt a blow, however, when Chris Gayle pulled out and Brendan Taylor as a replacement doesn't match up.
They have also lost Sohail Tanvir, who caught Covid. His spot goes to Dale Steyn. Steyn was awful in the IPL but there's a significant talent gap between that tournament and this one so it could be an inspired signing. He won't be available for another week anyhow.
Possible XI Kusal Perera, Gurbaz, Kusal Mendis, Taylor, Kamindu Mendis, Gunaratne, I Pathan, Prasanna, Naveen, Dilruwan, Pradeep
Sportsbook go 11/4 Tuskers. It's a skinny price which few will be keen to get involved with because the five teams seem a much of a muchness. The Kings are 10/3 with Galle Gladiators, waiting on Shahid Afridi to catch a plane, at 5/2. Dambulla, with Upul Tharanga and Ni-roshan Dickwella, are 4/1. Jaffna Stallions have as good as chance as any at 5/1 with Usman Shinwari potentially a match winner.
All 23 matches will be played at Hambantota, often with two a day. So by the start of next week we should start to see wear and tear have an impact. In tournaments where worn surfaces are used persistently, the team batting first tends to struggle to know what a good score is. The longer the tournament goes on, the toss becomes more important. We would expect chasers to dominate in the second half. There have been only seven T20 internationals played at the venue, all between 2012 and 2013. More than 160 was busted twice and generally runscoring was hard. But we couldn't possibly start wagering off the back of such out-out-date data.
Kings a trade
Tuskers are 1.834/5 on an early show and we would expect Kings to go off at around the 2.206/5 mark. In what could be the epitaph for the tournament, we really don't see as big a gulf as the market does between the two.
That could change over time but with both teams out of form, out of practise and finding their way, it makes little sense to start taking short prices. Even less sense to let bets ride. We will look to trade Kings if they can get a foothold at the 1.608/13 mark, something we should be confident of because the Tuskers bowling would do well if this was a Test match. Newsflash: it's not.
Daniel Bell-Drummond and Laurie Evans as a potential opening combo for Kings suggests the franchise have done their homework. Both are excellent performers. Bell-Drummond has a mark hovering around the 30% point for top bat as opener with Evans pushing towards the same. Both could go off at around the 10/3 mark.
Russell is 5/1 for top Kings bat honours. He is, of course, overdue a win after a hugely disappointing IPL when he failed to cop even once. But we're not sure where he's going to bat.
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