As ever, the toss will be a massive moment ahead of the Cricket World Cup opener on Thursday at the sold-out Oval with hosts England taking on South Africa.
Looking at the weather forecast and the fact that the Oval is usually a fast scoring wicket which allows free flowing cricket to be played – I’d definitely choose to bat first and set a decent target.
England are my outright picks (see outright preview – click here) so I’m obviously all over them getting off to a perfect start but I’m also full of respect for this young South African side – although they were dealt a late blow with the news that Dale Steyn will miss his country’s first two matches due to a shoulder injury. Steyn’s absence will leave South Africa’s attack in the capable hands of Rabada and Lungi Ngidi.
England are not without their share of injury niggles as well. Mark Wood is a question mark due to an ankle problem and Adil Rashid has admitted he will need painkillers to get through the tournament because of his own shoulder problems.
The current form and big match experience however points firmly to England and there’s a few bets I’m keen on with starsports.bet – don’t forget play starts at 10.30am.
TOP ENGLAND BATSMAN
JASON ROY (7/2) will come into this full of confidence having hit a not out 89 here at the Oval in England’s warm-up match last week against Afghanistan. I also can’t ignore BEN STOKES (6/1). He’s just coming back into form at the right time after a disappointing IPL campaign but has the experience to be a match winner.
ENGLAND TOP WICKET TAKER
ADIL RASHID (3/1) and LIAM PLUNKETT (4/1) make most appeal in this market and not just because of Yorkshire connections! Rashid always makes a decent contribution and Plunkett is always solid and a reliable wicket taker in the middle overs.
MATCH SIXES UNDER 11.5 (20/21)
ENGLAND MATCH SIXES OVER 6.5 (5/6)
ENGLAND FIRST WICKET UNDER 33.5 (5/6)
Switching sports I’m looking forward to the Europa League Final tonight. I’m a Man U fan – how could I be anything else given that Dad played for them ? So I can look at this as a neutral. If forced, I just favour Arsenal who might just want this a bit more with the carrot of Champions League football next season dangling.
After the match – one more sleep until the Cricket World Cup.
RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
3 pts win JASON ROY (Top England Batsman) at around 7/2 with starsports.bet
2 pts win BEN STOKES (Top England Batsman) at around 6/1 with starsports.bet
2.5 pts win ADIL RASHID (Top England Wicket Taker) at around 3/1 with starsports.bet
2.5 pts win LIAM PLUNKETT (Top England Wicket Taker) at around 4/1 with starsports.bet
7 pts win MATCH SIXES UNDER 11.5 at around 20/21 with starsports.bet
7 pts win ENGLAND MATCH SIXES OVER 6.5 at around 5/6 with starsports.bet
5 pts win ENGLAND FIRST WICKET UNDER 33.5 RUNS at around 5/6 with starsports.bet
PROFIT/LOSS SINCE JAN 1 2017: PROFIT 221.20 points
(excluding Cricket World Cup ante-post, Memorial golf, Chelsea v Arsenal)