Dave Tickner has 8/1 and 9/1 picks for England's Champions Trophy opener against Bangladesh at The Oval.
Recommended Bets: England v Bangladesh
England kick off the 2017 Champions Trophy with, on paper, the easiest assignment they will face on their way to, they hope, the final at The Oval in 18 days’ time.
But, while England - who had won eight ODIs in a row before Monday’s dead-rubber defeat to South Africa - are tournament favourites and short-price jollies here, this is no penalty kick.
Bangladesh may have only beaten England four times ever in ODIs, but those four wins have all come within the last seven meetings, and include well-deserved victories for the Tigers at the last two World Cups.
That two of those four Bangladesh victories have come at Bristol and Adelaide also suggests that sub-continent conditions are no prerequisite for an upset here. And while early June might not be the ideal time of year for Bangladesh, certainly The Oval would be high on the list of English grounds where they might fancy their chances.
Both teams are far stronger now than they were at that World Cup down under, and the three-match series that England edged 2-1 in Bangladesh last October was a very decent one. The result was probably fair, but certainly England did not have everything their own way.
Bangladesh at 4/1 certainly make more appeal than England at 1/5, but I’d want to know the Tigers have won the toss and are bowling first before getting involved. Certainly if Bangladesh are in the field at 1030 and still available at anything around 7/2 they will be worthy of support.
One bet that really does catch the eye - again, especially if England bat first - is Ben Stokes all the way out at 9/1 to be the hosts’ top batsman on the day.
While his bowling is hampered by a knee injury, there has been no issue with Stokes’ batting in recent weeks, and he has returned from a successful IPL stint looking better than ever.
Stokes’ talent has long been obvious, but it has taken a while for him to really show it consistently in ODI cricket. Over the last year, though, he has kicked on.
Having batted down at seven and eight in his early days in England blue, he is now firmly established at number five in England’s power-packed top seven, and has delivered consistent results this year. Seven times in his last 13 ODIs he has gone past 50, converting two of those to three-figure scores. Crucially for us, he has top-scored three times during that run – and 3/13 is improved to 3/9 when he bats at five.
There are risks here, of course. England’s top four is packed with quality and could mean we don’t even get a run for our money, especially if England are chasing a moderate total. And if England bat first, a particularly strong start could see Jos Buttler elevated above Stokes in the order to unleash some mayhem, although on current form it’s debatable whether that would be worthwhile.
But these concerns seem to be more than built into a big price and I’m happy to take a chance here.
Another England player who looks a touch overpriced to go well is Liam Plunkett, who has been the side’s major wicket threat in 50-over cricket this year.
We’re taking his absence from the side at Lord’s on Monday as evidence that he’s definitely in the first XI for the Champions Trophy given the other players rested that day, and fully expect him to be involved in this one.
There’s nothing complicated about recommending him here; his last seven ODI performances have returned the following analyses (most recent first): 3-64, 1-42, 3-23, 0-14, 3-27, 3-32, 4-40. That’s three or more wickets in five of his last seven, with 17 wickets at one every 19 balls during that run.
He’s 4/1 to be top England bowler here, but Stan James offer 8/1 in the top match bowler and that looks an even better shout – especially if England do wind up chasing a small total to restrict the opportunities for the likes of Mustafizur Rahman and Shakib Al Hasan.
Where to watch on TV: Sky Sports 2, 1000 BST
Posted at 1645 BST on 31/05/17.