Babar Azam 1280 pakistan 1280

India v Pakistan
Sunday, 15:00 BST
Live on Sky Sports Cricket

This could be a preview of the final

14 years ago, India and Pakistan contested the inaugural T20 World Cup final and it will be no surprise whatsoever if 2021 produces a repeat. That is my forecast. I’ve tipped Pakistan at 12.011/1 on Cricket…Only Bettor and it is impossible to argue with India’s status as hot favourites for the title.

Moreover, the early results and Super12 draw has reinforced that view, because their tasks to qualify has been made considerably easier by avoiding the stronger qualifiers, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, in Group 2. Scotland and Namibia are highly unlikely to present much of a threat and nor to a lesser extent will Afghanistan.

That leaves probable qualification between India, Pakistan and New Zealand. The pair to emerge will then avoid one another in the semis. Nevertheless, this match is critical to reduce any pressure, and build momentum, let alone the massive issue of national pride.

It may surprise to learn that India have won seven out of eight T20 internationals ever against their biggest rivals. However that statistic warrants caveats. Five of the eight matches were played in India and the last was in 2016. Pakistan have definitely improved since.

Pakistan’s record in U.A.E. is outstanding

Indeed, one could also point to stats showing Pakistan winning 13 out of 14 matches in the U.A.E. between 2016 and 2018, when temporarily playing home fixtures here. Granted, none were against India but Australia, New Zealand, West Indies and Sri Lanka provided respectable opposition. They are bound to appreciate the slow conditions.

Without trying to manufacture an argument against India, I reckon they represent poor value at 1.548/15. Leaving aside the gap between the teams being potentially closer than those odds imply, it makes absolutely no sense to takes odds-on before the toss, if playing the outright market at all.

Toss bias is massive in the afternoon

We already expected dew to be a factor in these afternoon matches, handing a huge advantage to the chasing side and we must now take very low scoring into account. Earlier South Africa made 118 batting first at Abu Dhabi, before Windies were skittled for 55 at this Dubai stadium. Even if, as in the former case, a low score proves competitive, the market won’t respect it. The defending side will drift significantly.

It is anyone’s guess what a competitive total is at Dubai. Windies threw their wickets away and England bowled well. The par 1st Innings Runs line opened around 160-165 so, yet again, backing big unders paid big dividends.

These two could back the low scoring trend

I suspect the market will react here but am not steaming in again because both of these sides are well capable of big scores, and Dubai has been the best of the three U.A.E. pitches lately. The final three first innings totals of the IPL here were 192, 172 and 164.

With that in mind, and ignoring the Windies effort, 21/10 about both teams scoring 160 looks fair value.

Pakistan boast real power and depth

It would be no surprise to see either Sharma/Rahul/Kohli or Azam/Rizwan/Zaman go big here – both are superb top-threes, and backed by strong finishers in the middle order. I slightly prefer Pakistan in that regard, actually, because they have such depth. Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan and Hasan Ali could provide finishing power all the way down to nine.

One way of backing Pakistan, and making the most of that batting depth, without placing too much emphasis on the toss, is to back them to hit the Most Sixes at 6/4. Try that.

The enhanced batsmen in the Top Team Runscorer markets are K.L. Rahul to 3/1, and Babar Azam to 12/5. Openers are likely to dominate in this tournament, given the generally low scoring trends, but I’m happy to swerve them here.

Two value punts on Pant and Afridi

At 14/1, Rishabh Pant looks way too big. He could bat anywhere between four and six but, even in the latter scenario, is perfectly capable of making up ground late and, as explained above, Dubai is the best place to to employ such a strategy in this tournament.

Finally, I’ll take 16/1 about Shaheen Afridi being Man of the Match. He was one of my tips on Cricket…Only Bettor to be top tournament bowler at 33/1, and always a strong runner in this market.


The T20 World Cup starts here on Cricket…Only Bettor

Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty

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