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Cricket’s T20 World Cup gets under way on Sunday – Andy Schooler picks out his likely winner, plus best bets from the top bat and bowl markets.

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First round draw

Group A: Namibia, Netherlands, Sri Lanka, UAE

Group B: Ireland, Scotland, West Indies, Zimbabwe

Super 12s draw

Group 1: Afghanistan, Australia, England, New Zealand, Winner Group A, Runner-up Group B

Group 2: Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Runner-up Group A, Winner Group B

Tournament Winner

Having had to wait five a half years for a T20 World Cup prior to the 2021 edition, another one will get under way in Australia this Sunday.

Last year’s tournament didn’t disappoint but for those who love to see the ball being bashed around, this one could be even better.

In the UAE in 2021, there was just one score of 200+, while only two above 180 in games featuring two teams who went straight to the Super 12 stage.

Despite generally larger grounds, this will surely change over the next month with Australia providing quicker, bouncier pitches which batters should enjoy more.

It’s the same format as 12 months ago – two groups of four in the first round with the top two in each joining the eight seeded teams in the next round, the Super 12s.

Those 12 teams, which include England and the hosts, will again be split into two groups with the top two in each progressing to the knockout semi-finals.

Australia emerged as champions in the UAE but only after scraping through the Super 12s on net run-rate.

South Africa were the team edged out on that metric but they look good value in the outright market for the 2022 renewal.

We all know the Proteas’ reputation for failing to deliver on the big stage but this looks a good squad, one which should enjoy the conditions on offer Down Under.

The batting looks strong – and that’s backed up by the data.

South Africa have scored 200+ in five of their 13 innings in this format in 2022 – the best of any side in this competition.

Opener Quinton de Kock is a proven runscorer at this level, while number three Rilee Rossouw has impressed since returning to the fold earlier this year.

Further down the order, David Miller and Aiden Markram have that ability to really put their foot down in the closing overs, while rising stars Tristan Stubbs and Dewald Brevis have both caught the eye.

With the ball, Anrich Nortje and Kagiso Rabada provide genuine pace, while Lungi Ngidi is no slouch either.

There are good spin options too, always crucial in this format.

Stats show wrist-spin is key in Australia and so Tabraiz Shamsi – a world-leading 36 T20I wickets in 2021 – could be key.

However, such is South Africa’s strength that he’s not even certain to make the final XI with the more economical Keshav Maharaj likely to tie sides down in those middle overs.

On the negative side, the Proteas will be without Dwaine Pretorius, while there’s a debate about whether captain Temba Bavumba should be playing.

The opener’s strike-rate has been widely criticised with Reeza Hendricks’ form much better.

Still, in many ways that’s a good problem to have and I’m not sure South Africa’s price of 15/2 fairly reflects their chances.

Of course, winning T20 tournaments is never easy – risk-reward cricket can easily go wrong.

England are a prime example of that.

They are more than capable of stringing a good run together and form has been improving in the run-up following a disappointing summer, one which saw Eoin Morgan replaced as captain by Jos Buttler.

Their batters will go after the bowlers, no doubt, but the bowling doesn’t look as strong as some of their rivals – they leak runs more than most – and it’s long been the case that if the batters don’t fire then there are problems for England.

With Jofra Archer still out, England’s attack could do with Mark Wood fit and firing but that’s not always the case for long.

They could win, but 16/5 isn’t for me.

Australia are favourites but the weight of history against them – no side has successfully defended this title, while none of the previous seven editions has been won by the host nation.

With Aaron Finch and Glenn Maxwell both struggling for runs, I’ll swerve them at 11/4.

Of the sides towards the top of the market, I’m most keen on India at 7/2.

They’ve got the best form in T20 cricket since the last World Cup, winning nine of the 10 series they’ve played with the other drawn. They have series victories over title rivals Australia, South Africa and England in recent months, although it has to be said that the majority of those matches have been played in their homeland where conditions are considerably different.

They have plenty of runscoring power and the supposed demise of Virat Kohli again seems to have been overplayed.

No longer captain, he now has Suryakumar Yadav as support in the batting order – the right-hander leads the 2022 T20I runcharts and his career strike rate of 176.81 is currently the best in T20I history.

But injuries to Jasprit Bumrah and Ravi Jadeja certainly make the bowling weaker and that’s the main reason I am leaving the Indians alone.

New Zealand and Pakistan are the other sides at less than 66/1.

New Zealand made the final 12 months ago but look weaker than they did then, albeit they’ve often shown that ability to peak for these global tournaments.

One example was when they finished runners-up at the 2015 ODI World Cup, played in Australia, but in general their record in Oz has been woeful in recent years which has to be a concern to potential backers.

As for Pakistan, their batting looks way too reliant on their openers so I’m happy to take a chance on South Africa in this market.

Best bet: South Africa - Each Way

Previous T20 World Cup winners

2021 – Australia (in UAE)
2016 – West Indies (in India)
2014 – Sri Lanka (in Bangladesh)
2012 – West Indies (in Sri Lanka)
2010 – England (in West Indies)
2009 – Pakistan (in England)
2007 – India (in South Africa)

Top Tournament Batter

Let’s start by letting history narrow down our search.

Tournament history suggests, strongly, that an opener will win this market.

Six of the previous seven stagings have seen an opening batter finish as leading runscorer, while on the other occasion it was the great Virat Kohli, batting at three.

History also shows that you really need to be playing plenty of matches – six of the seven previous winners have played for a team which reached the semi-finals at least.

The odd one out was Tamim Iqbal in 2016, who did play a lot of matches by appearing in the first-round group stage.

The outright market suggests the last four will be made up of Australia, England, India and South Africa and looking at their openers, Alex Hales looks a big price at 20/1.

He’s only just been brought back in from the cold by England – something which followed on from a strong showing in The Hundred – but justified his selection in the recent series wins over Pakistan and Australia, scoring half-centuries against both, while his 27 off 12 balls in Lahore highlighted his ability to go hard and big, as many of the English batters do.

Hales also has good memories of many of the grounds in use at this tournament.

He was the top scorer in the 2020/21 Big Bash League, while finishing 13th in that list in 2021/22 at a strike rate of 148 was hardly a bad effort either.

Hales fits the profile of a winner here and at 20/1 he looks worth a dabble.

I also like one of the favourites, namely Babar Azam, who won this market in 2021.

The Pakistani ticks the opener box and there’s a fair chance his side make it through to the semis too – while India are firm favourites to win Group 2, the layers are struggling to separate Pakistan and South Africa.

His form has been great with five 50+ scores in this format in 2022, including two in the recent Tri-Series in New Zealand.

He sits third on the T20I top runscorers list for this year and while some will point out he trails team-mate Mohammed Rizwan by almost 200 runs, crucially he has a much better record in Australia.

Azam has two half-centuries in three T20Is in Australia and while that sample is obviously small, it’s worth highlighting his ODI record Down Under which shows an average of 56.4 and all five innings above 30.

While on the topic of ODIs, now is a good time to mention that Azam has scored 679 runs in nine such matches in 2022.

In short, I like him at 9/1.

Finally in this market, let’s try a longer shot in the shape of Rilee Rossouw.

The South African isn’t an opener but he should get chances coming in at three.

He should be full of confidence right now having recently returned to the international fold and making 96 not out against England, plus an unbeaten 100 against India earlier this month.

His strike-rate across his six T20Is this year is up above 180 which shows he’ll go on the attack and a couple of similar scores in Australia will likely see him challenge in this market.

Of course, his risk-taking does have a downside – there have been two ducks in those aforementioned six games – but that’s built into the price of 45/1.

Babar Azam
Alex Hales - Each Way
Rilee Rossouw - Each Way

2021 T20 World Cup top runscorers

Babar Azam (PAK) – 303 (6 matches)
David Warner (AUS) – 289 (7)
Mohammad Rizwan (PAK) – 281 (6)
Jos Buttler (ENG) – 269 (6)
Charith Asalanka (SL) – 231 (6)

Previous top tournament run-scorers

2021 – Babar Azam (Pakistan, semi-final)
2016 – Tamim Iqbal (Bangladesh, out in group stage)
2014 – Virat Kohli (India, runners-up)
2012 – Shane Watson (Australia, semi-final)
2010 – Mahela Jayawardene (Sri Lanka, semi-final)
2009 – Tillakaratne Dilshan (Sri Lanka, runners-up)
2007 – Matthew Hayden (Australia, semi-final)

Top Tournament Bowler

What we know here is that the last four T20 World Cups have seen a spinner win this market.

In addition, the last three have seen a winner who played in the first-round group stage.

With this in mind, it’s no surprise to see Sri Lanka’s Wanindu Hasaranga de Silva at the head of the wicket-taking betting.

His wrist spin should be suited to the Australian pitches which have tended to provide more assistance to them than the finger spinners.

With Sri Lanka’s first-round group being played at Geelong, the ground with the lowest historical run-rate, Hasaranga should get a good platform to establish a good gap between himself and his Super 12 rivals.

Remember Sri Lanka (1/12 to win Group A) will play three games before the likes of England, Australia and India enter the tournament.

Barring a disaster, they look certain to play eight matches at the tournament.

But that is not the only reason for Hasaranga’s 7/1 price. Far from it.

His data is excellent with 19 wickets in 11 T20 internationals this year, at a highly-impressive strike rate of a wicket every 12.9 balls. Five of those have come in two games in Australia, while he’s taken at least three wickets in seven of his last 17 T20Is.

Those figures are backed up over a longer period too with his career strike rate only a slightly-higher 13.1.

He’s my spinner this time around but if that historical trend is going to be broken then Australia seems a likely venue at which it happens.

The pitches will suit the pacemen and seamers and with this in mind I can’t ignore the 28/1 being offered about Trent Boult.

He’ll open the bowling for New Zealand and also deliver plenty of overs towards the end of the innings where cheap wickets can be picked up – remember we’re after the leading wicket-taker here and that isn’t necessarily going to be the best bowler.

Boult took 13 wickets in seven games at last year’s tournament in the UAE where conditions weren’t so much in his favour.

Some will suggest his form has since slipped, pointing to just three wickets during the recent Tri-Series in his homeland, but that hides the fact he was incredibly economical – keep in that vein and wickets will surely follow.

Wickets certainly haven’t been a problem at ODI level of late – 18 in six games this year – and what is particularly encouraging is that Boult has performed in Australia in a previous global tournament.

He took 22 wickets in the 2015 World Cup to top the wicket-taking charts and I’m a somewhat surprised he’s available at 28s to repeat that feat.

Wanindu Hasaranga de Silva
Trent Boult - Each Way

2021 T20 World Cup top wicket-takers

Wanindu Hasaranga de Silva (SL) – 16 (8 matches)
Adam Zampa (AUS) – 13 (7)
Trent Boult (NZ) – 13 (7)
Shakib Al Hasan (BAN) – 11 (6)
Josh Hazlewood (AUS) – 11 (7)

Previous top tournament wicket-takers

2021 – Wanindu Hasaranga De Silva (SL) – 16 wickets in 8 matches (group stage)
2016 – Mohammad Nabi (AFG), 12 wickets in 7 matches (group stage)
2014 – Imran Tahir (SA), 12 wickets in 5 matches (semi-finals) & Ahsan Mailk (NED), 12 wickets in 7 matches (group stage)
2012 – Ajantha Mendis (SL), 15 wickets in 6 matches (runners-up)
2010 – Dirk Nannes (AUS), 14 wickets in 7 matches (runners-up)
2009 – Umar Gul (PAK), 13 wickets in 7 matches (winners)
2007 – Umar Gul (PAK), 13 wickets in 7 matches (runners-up)

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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