Richard Mann provides his outright preview for the T20 World Cup, where South Africa are fancied to outrun massive odds but New Zealand look the team to beat.
1pt win New Zealand to win the T20 World Cup at 7/1 (General)
1pt South Africa to win the T20 World Cup at 14/1 (Paddy Power)
In a year that has already seen NEW ZEALAND crowned ICC Test Championship winners, Kane Williamson’s Black Caps can end a memorable 2021 by winning the T20 World Cup in Dubai.
I nailed my colours to the New Zealand mast last month when availing myself to some of the 9/1 on offer, but even though a couple of points shorter in the betting now, I still think they are the best bet in the outright market – even more so now, given recent events at the Indian Premier League.
That’s not to say New Zealand don’t have a few minor concerns, but current market leaders, India, have some form worries in their camp while England’s engine room, already shorn of Ben Stokes, suddenly looks fragile, and banking on the UAE being able to produce flat pitches that lend themselves to high scoring – like England have done – looks a big mistake on the part of the selectors.
As for the Kiwis, they come into this event on the back a strong run of form in T20 cricket and with some of this existing squad having the added motivation of wanting to right the wrongs of the 50-over World Cup in England in 2019 when losing the final to the hosts on boundary countback.
Since then, New Zealand cricket has really thrived and while the rest of the world might have only started to take notice when they beat India in the ICC World Test Championship final this summer, New Zealand fans will have rightly been getting excited for some time now about a strong battery of pace bowlers, the continued achievements of some of the team’s elder statesman and, crucially, the addition of a younger breed of batsmen who have shone in the shortest format.
That batting group will again be led by captain Kane Williamson and Martin Guptill, but the emergence of Devon Conway – who currently averages a staggering 59.12 in 14 T20Is – has been a huge positive, as has the progression of Glenn Phillips, Tim Seifert and Daryl Mitchell. Jimmy Neesham is still firmly in the mix, too, and as we have seen before, he can clear the ropes with ease. Don’t expect that foursome to play together, but two or possibly three will, and they could prove the difference for New Zealand in those key positions at five, six and seven in the batting order.
The top order is patently very strong, with Williamson a wonderful operator in all formats, and Conway a real rising star. Against quality spin on challenging surfaces, there aren’t many better than Williamson, who will look to assess conditions early and manage the innings accordingly, but T20 cricket is ultimately about having the ability to hit fours and sixes with greater frequency than your opposition, and the pitches out in the UAE for the second leg of the IPL have required a little bit of everything in order to achieve winning scores.
Simon Doull recently spoke on the Cricket…Only Bettor podcast about the need for big-boy power in the middle order, and I do think New Zealand have enough of that to go a long way in the competition.
Phillips’ strike-rate in T20Is is 149.70, Seifert’s 133.14, Mitchell’s 137.03, and Neesham’s 157.28. By way of comparison, famed finisher Kieron Pollard strikes at 137.93 in T20I’s, Hardik Pandya 145.34 and Eoin Morgan 138.25. Glenn Maxwell’s strike-rate of 158.92 sets the bar for middle-order batsmen, but he is very much out on his own in that regard.
New Zealand’s current crop have been honing their skills around the world in recent months; Phillips and Neesham at the IPL and Seifert in the Caribbean Premier League. All three featured in The Hundred, too, and that experience should not be underestimated.
Of course, hitting boundaries is one thing, but restricting them in the field is another. Despite a quiet spell at the IPL in the last few weeks, Trent Boult is such a fine operator that he is sure to find his groove before too long, and I expect him to share pace duties with Lockie Ferguson, a genuinely quick bowler who lit up the 50-over World Cup in England. At the time of writing, Ferguson has helped Kolkata Knight Riders reach the final of the IPL with his 13 wickets from only seven matches coming at an impressive economy rate of 6.46.
Neesham’s changes of pace have already brought him enough success at the IPL to suggest he will have a role to play with the ball, so too twin spins Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner who are vastly experienced now having picked up 10 wickets apiece in the 2016 World Cup. Sodhi claimed 11 wickets at an economy rate of 7.68 in this summer’s Vitality Blast in England, while Santner has been getting a taste for these conditions in recent weeks as a squad member for Chennai Super Kings.
They are a really good pair, if not appearing quite as sexy as some of the spin options elsewhere in the competition, and as always, this Kiwi outfit field really well. The aforementioned Phillips is a terrific outfielder – a real pocket-rocket – while Guptill has one of the safest pair of hands in the world.
I don’t see too many weaknesses here, for all I would have liked to have seen Adam Milne in the squad ahead of Tim Southee.
Still, there is certainly more upside than not, and I’m placing plenty of significance on the fact New Zealand come into the World Cup having won four T20 series on the bounce – against West Indies, Pakistan, Australia and Bangladesh.
I really like where this team is going and while the toss bias favouring the chasing team out in the UAE promises to become more significant as the weather turns cooler and dew becomes more of a factor, if judging New Zealand on a level playing field, one has to draw the conclusion that they are still a bet at 7/1. I’ll be topping up my initial bet at 9/1 with another point at 7/1.
New Zealand’s group pits them against Afghanistan's strong spin contingent, India and Pakistan.
India still head the betting at 5/2, but while there is obvious quality within their ranks, some of their selections have come under scrutiny in recent weeks given leg spinner Yuzvendra Chahal outbowled Ravi Ashwin and Rahul Chahar in the IPL but didn’t make the squad.
There was no place for Ruturak Gaikwad, too, with Ishan Kishan’s strong finish to an otherwise disastrous season saving him. Suryakumar Yadav has hardly been in stellar form of late, either, similarly Virat Kohli who is likely to open the batting and force KL Rahul down the order.
It could prove a big problem for India if Rahul bats out of position and isn’t able to thrive elsewhere in the order, while I do think Chahal will prove a big miss.
That’s not to say India don’t boast strong credentials, and I expect them to continue their recent dominance over Pakistan when they meet, but for an outright bet, 5/2 is very short for a side with some genuine form concerns and doubts over the make-up and order of their best XI. That XI will still be very strong, of course, but perhaps not as strong as it could have been.
New Zealand rate strong fancies to qualify from Group 2, with Pakistan’s over-reliance on their exceptional opening pair of Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan leaving them vulnerable, especially given their middle order lacks a proven finisher.
The Pakistan bowling is typically strong, with left-arm paceman Shaheen Afridi one to watch, but India have generally handled the pressure of their high-profile clashes better in the recent past, while New Zealand look a better balanced side with more options.
I do, however, respect the fact that Pakistan have played so much cricket in the UAE and should know conditions better than most.
While England should qualify from Group 1, I’m not sure it will be quite as straightforward as many imagine with West Indies and South Africa in there, along with Australia.
I have no expectations of Australia in this form of the game, not while they persist with David Warner and Steve Smith in their top four. The squad they have selected is a mediocre one, but the dynamic Josh Inglis is in there and would surely prove a better option at the top of the order after Warner looked laboured in the IPL before being axed by Sunrisers Hyderabad.
If conditions turn really bad for batting, Smith’s ability to play spin well and grind out scores could shine through, but this is a man whose strike-rate was down at 112.59 in this year’s IPL. Warner’s strike-rate was 107.73.
Australia captain Aaron Finch, another who prefers pace on the ball, has already confirmed that Warner will open in the World Cup, and with the very real prospect that Glenn Maxwell’s outstanding IPL campaign – 513 runs at a strike-rate of 144.10 – won’t be enough to get him higher than five in the batting order, I just can’t have them on my mind.
The market is slowly catching up to the fact that Australia have little chance in the coming weeks, with reigning champions West Indies rightly moving ahead of them in the betting, even though Sunil Narine’s brilliance in this season’s IPL hasn’t been enough to force him into their squad.
Narine’s fitness has been blamed for his omission, but any team featuring the aforementioned Pollard, Evin Lewis, Andre Russell, Shimron Hetmyer, Chris Gayle and Nicholas Pooran is always going to be a threat. The form of the last two named is far from ideal – and Gayle probably doesn’t deserve his place in the starting XI – but there is power galore in this batting line-up and if they get as far as the knockout stage, they will be the team most want to avoid.
Still, Narine’s absence is a huge blow to a bowling group that welcomes back veteran Ravi Rampaul, and Russell will need to stay fit after picking up another injury at the IPL. Russell’s batting always attracts attention, but his bowling will be vitally important to this attack and keeping him on the park will be crucial for his side’s hopes.
That leaves England, whose white-ball credentials are generally second to none but come with a caveat on this occasion, given they are without Stokes and Jofra Archer and have a captain in Eoin Morgan who looks shot to pieces with the bat.
Morgan’s captaincy remains as sharp as ever, but his batting has struggled for a while now, while Liam Livingstone failed to sparkle at the IPL and Dawid Malan comes into the tournament with question marks about his effectiveness on these types of pitches. For similar reasons, I still have my doubts about Jason Roy, too.
England’s batting would worry me. On traditional, flat one-day wickets, it is brilliant and destructive, but where England have struggled in the past has been when the pitches have asked different questions of them. Think the 2017 Champions Trophy semi-final loss to Pakistan, or even the World Cup final win over New Zealand when it needed Stokes to rescue his side when chasing only a modest total.
There won’t be Stokes to save England this time, nor Archer whose brilliance with the ball in all conditions cannot be questioned. Tymal Mills is a shrewd replacement for him, but relying on Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali for spin – and not even adding Joe Root to the squad – is, in my view, a mistake in selection that will cost them.
I just don’t think England have selected well for these conditions, and I’m surprised Morgan’s reliance on three frontline spinners as captain of Kolkata Knight Riders in the last few weeks of the IPL hasn’t persuaded him to change tack.
As such, I do think there is potential for a minor surprise in Group 1 and SOUTH AFRICA might be capable of doing just that.
It is remarkable to think that so many great South African teams of the past failed to win an ICC event, ones led by Graeme Smith and featuring the likes of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, AB de Villiers and Jacques Kallis.
Perhaps expectation weighed too heavy on their shoulders, but this current side doesn’t have that. They come into this World Cup with a fresh, hungry group carrying no baggage and battle scars, and with relatively little expected of them.
Temba Bavuma is a young captain thrust into leadership, but he will open the batting with the brilliantly destructive Quinton de Kock who averages 35.15 in this format and strikes at 136.38. Faf du Plessis ought to be a huge miss, but Aiden Markram is a class act and Rassie van der Dussen is currently averaging 65.56 in ODI cricket. Those are staggering numbers and his T20I record is very good, too.
That is the basis of a very good top four, and while the lack of a proven middle-order finisher is a worry, David Miller is vastly experienced and does strike at 140.02 in T20Is, while Heinrich Klaasen has some of that big-boy power and has made a strong start to his international career.
A 3-0 win in Sri Lanka recently has put South Africa on the right path for a World Cup in the UAE, and though that level of opponent is below what is in prospect in Group 1, there are reasons to be hopeful they can prove very competitive against some far-from-bombproof opponents and force their way into the latter stages.
Above all else, it is South Africa’s bowling which really excites. Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje form a brilliant pace duo, and it was nice to see the former finish the IPL well after a frustrating few weeks previously. He is a class act who is sure to make his mark in the coming weeks, while Nortje enjoyed an outstanding tournament, claiming 12 wickets with a miserly economy rate of 6.16.
Spin is covered with Keshav Maharaj who has been woefully underused in this format for too long. He gets his chance now and his partnership with Tabraiz Shamsi is really exciting given how well the latter has performed over the last 12 months.
Whether all of those ingredients are enough to see South Africa rule the world remains to be seen, but there is no denying that the bowling, in particular, should prove highly effective in these conditions and that the batting has real potential and more muscle than it is given credit for.
New Zealand have been my pick for a while now, and remain the headline bet, but I want a second string to my bow and adding South Africa to the staking plan at 14/1 is the preferred option.
Published at 1540 BST on 15/10/21
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