Twenty20 World Cup betting
The Twenty20 Cricket World Cup gets under way in Bangladesh on Sunday, with the West Indies the defending champions after their surprise victory over hosts Sri Lanka in Colombo two years ago.
Pakistan are the country with the best record from the four previous editions of this competition, but it is in-form Australia who are the market leaders after blitzing England in all forms of the game over their summer. After a closely contested first match, they won handsomely in the subsequent games to beat England 3-0 in their T20 series.
Australia's more recent preparations for this event have been hampered by the weather in South Africa, where their first match was abandoned and the second reduced to a seven-over slog, which they won with two balls to spare.
Such a brief match is no guide to form in a format which is a lottery at the best of times, but no country can match Australian cricket's current swagger, following their Ashes whitewash and their 2-1 Test series victory over South Africa in their own backyard.
Australia have never won this competition - India, Pakistan, England and West Indies are the previous champions - but as you would expect their record isn't shabby, with two semi-finals and a losing final appearance. Nevertheless, it's hard to escape the feeling that best odds of just 7/2 (Betfred & Ladbrokes) are a reflection of the recent achievements of their Test team.
With the tournament being held in Bangladesh it's logical to think that the other nations from the sub-continent will have the best chance in conditions they are used to, but the conditions haven't had too much bearing on previous tournaments. India won the inaugural competition in South Africa, Pakistan won in England, England in the West Indies and the West Indies in Sri Lanka. Each time, the winners were out of their natural environment.
India, home of the richest T20 league, are the second favourites, even though they haven't got past the Super 8 stage since winning in 2007. They may have a major domestic league, but they haven't played much international T20 cricket over the last 12 months - one match in fact, in which they beat Australia in Rajkot last October. They are a best price of 5/1 with BetVictor and 888sport.
At 7/1 with Stan James, two-time runners-up Sri Lanka look a better prospect, not least because they have been in Bangladesh for some time playing cricket. After winning a two-Test series 1-0, they then beat Bangladesh in two T20 matches and three one-day internationals, before going on to win the Asia Cup. They top the ICC rankings, are confident, in great form and have no need to acclimatise.
Pakistan, who have never failed to reach the semi-finals of the Twenty20 World Cup, were the beaten finalists in the 50 over Asia Cup and have played far more 20-over cricket than any other country over the ICC ranking qualifying period. They stand third in the rankings and have selected an experienced squad, with no fewer than seven players on 50 or more T20 caps.
To put that into context, Pakistan play in Group 2 alongside Australia, India and the West Indies and no other player in that group has reached 50 international T20 appearances. Bet365, Betfred, Paddy Power, 888Sport and Ladbrokes all make them 7/1 shots.
It's a tough group the defending champions find themselves in, against the teams ranked second and third and an ultra-confident Australia, and that is why the West Indies are a best price of 9/1 with Ladbrokes for a successful title defence. They did of course beat England in two matches last week, but that's no great measure of their current ability given England's troubled winter. What they do have are batsmen who can win matches in Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels.
As for England, they are given little hope by the bookies, with Stan James offering the best odds of 16/1. Over the last year they have won only one of eight matches in this format and their chances aren't helped by the loss of Joe Root to a broken thumb. They'll need some big performances from their more experienced players, including skipper Stuart Broad and big-hitters Eoin Morgan and Luke Wright.
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