England v South Africa
Saturday, 14:00 BST
Live on Sky Sports Cricket
After so many one-sided games, not everyone has been enamoured with this year’s World Cup but what a thrilling finale we have to the Super 12 stage, in both groups.
Must-win scenario for South Africa
Prior to this match, Australia take on the West Indies, so South Africa will know precisely what they need to do in order to reach the semis. My expectation is that will be an unlikely, big-margin win against the best team in the tournament but it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that the mercurial Windies do them a favour.
Having thrown a couple of units on South Africa at 16.015/1 prior to the first match of the Super 12, my mind keeps flashing back to that morning and a dire batting performance against the Aussies, having lost the toss. As it turned out, a pitiful 118 nearly proved enough. It has been an uphill struggle ever since.
Will the real QDK finally stand up?
Fundamentally, they have one problem. Their best batsman has endured a nightmare, hitting just 35 runs from three innings and massively damaging his international reputation with well-documented off-field troubles. However were Quinton de Kock to turn up when it really matters, anything is possible. Even winning the title.
The pedigree of their bowlers cannot be questioned. Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje are as good a pace pairing as you’ll find, while spinners Tabraiz Shamsi and Keshav Maharaj could definitely cause England problems at Sharjah.
Scoring much harder for England this time
When last at this ground, England hit 163, thanks to a wonderful unbeaten ton from Jos Buttler. That was well above the par total, which I’d estimate around 140-145. However if England bat first again, I suspect the market will go much higher on the basis of last time. Laying higher lines looks a much better way to oppose England than via the match odds.
My plan is to try and lay 150 or more at 1.75/7, whoever bats first, either pre-match or in-play. Obviously it will be much harder to get South Africa matched that low but try anyway – stranger things have happened.
England way ahead on sixes count
The long-term trends at Sharjah say this is all about sixes. The team to hit more maximums nearly always wins the match here, and there is no competition in that regard. South Africa have managed just ten sixes in their four games, compared to 22 for England, who would surely have hit many more had they not thrice been chasing very low totals.
Indeed, odds of 4/6 about England hitting Most Sixes is huge – I’d price it at 1/3. Stick that in as a banker for your weekend accas.
Hungry Wood to take his chance
With Tymal Mills out with injury, expect Mark Wood to come in and be bursting to impress. Last year, Wood produced an outstanding performance against India on a slow surface at Sharjah and I reckon the England paceman could again star in these conditions. Take 16/1 about him for Man of the Match.
As usual, the top runscorer favourites are both available at enhanced odds – Buttler at 9/4, De Kock at 13/5. The argument for the former is obvious but I prefer the complete opposite strategy here.
I expect a low-scoring match and, in that case, this market could be won with 25-30. Moreover, those runs can come in a flash with a few big hits at the death. It is perfect for a later batsman at huge odds, and a couple appeal at 100/1 – Chris Jordan for England, Keshav Maharaj for South Africa.
Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty