England can Bach up T20 success
Jade Dernbach can help England defend their ICC World Twenty20 Cup title in Sri Lanka according to our Dave Tickner.
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2pts England to win ICC World Twenty20 at 8/1 (sportingbet, Blue Square).
1pt e.w. Jade Dernbach to be top tournament wicket-taker at 50/1 (General, 1/4 1,2,3,4).
1pt e.w. Yuvraj Singh to be top tournament six-hitter at 33/1 (Stan James, 1/4 1,2,3).
1.5pts Virat Kohli to be top tournament run-scorer at 14/1 (BetVictor, Stan James, 1/4 1,2,3,4,5).
Plenty of cricket pundits will earnestly tell you the World Twenty20 is a lottery.
If you believe them, then feel free to put all your money on Afghanistan at 1000/1. It's a cracking price for an 11/1 shot.
Of course the World Twenty20 is not a lottery. Even more than penalty shoot-outs are not lotteries.
Obviously those who say the World Twenty20 is a lottery don't actually mean it. They're just using the wrong word.
What they mean is that it's unpredictable.
And this is a fairer point. The winners of the last four 50-over World Cups have surprised no-one. Yet none of the three World Twenty20 champions were among the pre-tournament favourites.
However, all those teams were undeniably worthy winners. India, Pakistan and England did not triumph by luck. They won because they played the best cricket across the event.
The difficulty for punters is that identifying the team that will play the best cricket across the next three weeks and take the prize is no easy task.
Seven sides are 8/1 or shorter in the betting and a solid case could be made for any of them. Even 20/1 shots New Zealand cannot be discounted given their perennial dark-horse status and record of overachieving in major tournaments.
No-one can really tell you with any confidence who will win this competition. That's what they mean when they wrongly say it's a lottery.
What you can do is make a call on which sides have been under-rated by the layers. Who is the value call?
And, perhaps surprisingly, that side may well be defending champions and 8/1 shots England.
They top the (admittedly fledgling) ICC rankings in this format and have eight of the 2010 winners with them in Sri Lanka.
That should, of course, be nine. And were He Who Cannot Be Named in the 15, they would have even better claims on the title. But they would also be no bigger than 6/1 and quite possibly shorter still.
Alex Hales may be inexperienced at this level but he has made an encouraging start to his T20 career and made a half-century in the warm-up win over Australia.
Craig Kieswetter and especially Luke Wright appear to be closer to finding the magic formula, the right blend of swishing the bat but also hitting the ball, while Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow add youthful flair to the batting line-up.
And then there's Eoin Morgan. Even without KP it's an exciting line-up, and the bowling attack is varied, balanced and talented.
There is no doubt that KP has been, along with Morgan, England's finest player in this form of the game. His absence is a blow. But I feel it's one that's been overplayed.
They have the tournament's weakest side, Afghanistan, in their first-round group and the pre-determined seedings (a now seemingly standard punter-friendly move for big ICC events that further scuppers the lottery talk) mean the early clash with India should therefore be irrelevant in the big tournament picture.
It also means they avoid the powerful Indian line-up in the crucial Super Eight stage, where they again look to be marginally on the right side of things as they are slated to face West Indies, Sri Lanka and New Zealand rather than Australia, South Africa and Pakistan.
And the idea that England will struggle in sub-continent conditions is not borne out by stats; they have won four of their six T20Is in Asia, with all of those games against format powerhouses India and Pakistan.
It's also far from certain in any case that the tournament will be played on raging Bunsens with Sri Lanka - and Colombo in particular - hit by plenty of rain recently.
If there's one side that should know how to play around the rain, it's England.
That slightly facetious point aside, there are undoubtedly plenty of things to like about Stuart Broad's side. They're the holders, they're in solid form (seven wins in last 10 T20Is plus that unofficial warm-up success against Australia) and as the outsiders of the seven big guns at the head of the betting look worthy of support.
Moving on to the other markets, and England again look worth following in the top bowler lists.
It stands to reason that you'll look to players from sides you fancy to do well in the runs and wicket markets. Finalists will get seven games; those eliminated in the Super Eight just five. It's a significant advantage. In 2010, nine of the 10 leading runscorers and nine of the top 12 wicket-takers played for sides who reached at least the last four.
There are a few options among England's bowling attack. Steven Finn has a superb record in limited-overs cricket while Graeme Swann is a fine T20 bowler.
But at the prices, the man we want onside is Jade Dernbach. He bowls a wide variety of deliveries which keeps him in the game on any surface and, crucially, he bowls a lot of his overs at the end of the innings when runs are going to come but so too will wickets.
Only twice in 12 games has Dernbach bowled his full allocation of four overs without picking up at least one wicket. He has already picked up a four-wicket haul in T20 international cricket, and his recent ODI form also stands up with nine wickets in his last four games.
You're looking at around 10 wickets to get into the place reckoning and as the designated death bowler for a side we fancy, and with a game against the tournament's weakest side in the first round, Dernbach looks too big at 50/1 and rates a value each-way bet.
Another market where there appears to be a spot of value is the player to hit most sixes.
Chris Gayle is an understandable favourite here; he has scored almost 100 more sixes than anyone else in all T20 cricket and has blasted 43 sixes in just 23 internationals. That's a ratio that only one player can come anywhere close to over a similar number of games.
And that player is India's Yuvraj Singh, with 40 in 24 and from far fewer deliveries faced (400 against 526). But while Gayle is no bigger than 9/4, Stan James offer Yuvi at a massive 33/1 on his return to international cricket after beating cancer.
Whatever happens, Yuvraj's return to the game will be one of the good-news stories of the tournament, but this is no moist-eyed selection. However much we'd love to see Yuvraj star, our case here is based on solid stats.
He was second in the six-hitting chart at the 2007 event (including that famous six sixes in an over off Broad) and topped the table two years later in 2009 despite India's Super Eight exit.
He, like Dernbach, also has the chance to give his tally an early boost against Afghanistan.
Fears that he may have been rushed back into the side too soon were eased by a classy 34 against New Zealand last week (including two maximums) and the price looks wrong. Paddy Power and Coral have priced up the same market and offer just 20s and 22s.
Another India player we just have to get onside is Virat Kohli.
He is, along with Hashim Amla, the best batsman in the world right now and has a game built on the most solid of foundations which means he should score runs consistently. This is not a player who relies on swiping and hopes he gets lucky.
His last two T20Is have brought scores of 68 and 70 in Pallekele and Chennai, while he helped himself to an unbeaten 75 in a warm-up clash against Pakistan at the R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo where India will play all their games in the event itself.
Both BetVictor and Stan James offer 14/1 for India's newest star to top the run-charts and with his superb recent form in all formats for India and each-way terms covering the top five rather than four it looks a perfectly fair price.