Sri Lanka to rule the World
Sri Lanka and Brendon McCullum are taken to shine by our Dave Tickner at the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh.
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The World Twenty20 "Super 10s" get under way on Friday. Ostensibly the "second round" this is, in reality, the start of the tournament proper after all those inconvenient Associates who qualified were put through another qualifier to try and weed them out and leave only the 10 Full Members to play for the main prize.
At time of writing, Ireland have once again proved to be a thorn in the ICC's side and look likely to again, as they did at the 50-over World Cup in 2007, take a spot in the latter stages that was not intended for upstarts.
The Super 10s sees the Big Eight joined by, in all likelihood, Bangladesh and Ireland. They are split into two groups of five, with the top two from each group progressing to the semi-finals.
Due to the seedings being decided some time ago, these groups are horribly lopsided.
With conditions in Bangladesh likely to favour the sub-continent teams, Group 2 looks impossible to call, with the hosts joined by India and Pakistan plus the defending champions West Indies and world cricket's current form side Australia.
Picking a winner and runner-up out of that lot looks an exercise in futility. Certainly, it leaves all involved looking skinny in an outright market that has three of those sides - Australia, India, West Indies - among the top four in the betting.
An obvious strategy, then, but I suggest taking them on with the only interloper from Group 1 at the head of the betting.
Sri Lanka surely cannot believe their luck; they have landed in a group containing no other sub-continent team and will face no top-class spinners.
Ireland, for all their stunning development in the last seven years, remain a weaker qualifier than Bangladesh in Group 2, South Africa are in transition and England are a shambles.
That leaves only New Zealand, perennial dark horses and once again in with a decent shout of reaching the latter stages in this kind group.
But it's the Sri Lankans for me. Fresh from winning the 50-over Asia Cup - also held in Bangladesh just a few weeks ago - they appear to have most bases covered with both bat and ball.
And though they've never won the World Twenty20, they have been a consistent presence in the latter stages, reaching the final in 2009 and 2012 and the semi-final in 2010.
It would be a major shock were they not to progress from this group, at which point it needs just a single victory to land each-way money. A price of 11/2 is big enough to make that a viable option and looks more appealing than going in at 4/7 in the 'to qualify' market.
Elsewhere, Brendon McCullum looks a touch too big at 33/1 in the top tournament batsman market. While opening batsmen have been the leading scorers at all four previous World T20s and McCullum now bats at three, the price is still big enough to tempt us in.
Certainly you don't want to be backing anyone who bats any lower, but plenty of number-three batsmen have come close and at least taken place money in this market over the years.
McCullum has been in rare form recently, hitting a double and then a triple century in the Test series win over India, while his record in this form of the game is second to none.
At some point in this tournament, McCullum will almost certainly become the first batsman to score 2000 T20I runs; he needs only another 49. No other batsman has even reached 1400. It's a staggering margin even allowing for the fact McCullum has played more games than most of his rivals at the head of the list.
He is the only man with two T20I centuries to his name, and also has more half-centuries (12) than anyone else.
He has passed 60 in three of his last five T20I innings, and made runs in both New Zealand's warm-up games.
With New Zealand also in the easier group and with every chance of progressing to the last four, McCullum looks more like a 22/1 chance than the 33/1 offered by BetFred and Paddy Power.
McCullum was fifth in the run charts in 2012 despite New Zealand finishing bottom of their group and failing to reach the semi-finals. He looks good value to go at least one better this time.