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Cricket And Its Betting
CRICKET AND ITS BETTING / TRADING OPPORTUNITIES SPECIFICALLY LOOKING AT THE FIRST INNINGS RUNS MARKET
Over the past 20 years I must have written around 1000 betting articles, but this is my first foray into the sport which I actually should know the most about …. Cricket. I played cricket at a decent level for about 25 years, coached it for even longer so hopefully have decent credentials to write about it.
Cricket in terms of betting has really taken off in recent years with 20-20 cricket being the catalyst. There are some big yearly tournaments / leagues that see a huge betting turnover – the Big Bash in Australia and the Indian Premier League (IPL) are perhaps the best known but it is big business too in Bangladesh, Pakistan, West Indies and here in England.
The Big Bash is going on as I write this piece and both of the last two matches have seen over 25 million traded on the win market on the Betfair Exchange. This is a lot of money traded in what amounts to around 3 hours play. It is not only the win market that attracts money, there are decent sums matched on the innings runs line markets, and personally this is my favourite trading market for this version of the game. An innings runs line is basically an unders / overs market in terms of batting runs scored from a specific number of overs. So you will have an innings runs line for the whole 20 overs and this is a popular market. So for example before an innings gets underway the runs line could be at let’s say 160.5. So if you fancy the batting team to score 161 or more you would bet ‘over 160.5’, if you think they are not going to score that heavily you can go under 160.5. This market turns in play once the innings starts and the runs line will fluctuate depending on how well the batting side are doing. If they are 28 for 0 off the first 2 overs the runs line is likely to have gone up because they have made such a good start – possibly to around 180.5. Conversely if they lose early wickets and are 10 for 2 instead after 2 overs it may have dropped to around 145.5. This type of innings runs line market gives an excellent platform for traders who understand the game and the stats. In a future article I plan to look at 20-20 cricket in detail but for this article I want to go to the other end of the spectrum – namely test matches.
Now test matches can last up for 5 days so for most punters / traders this is a much less pressurised environment as there is far more time to weigh up potential bets or trades. In this article I want to concentrate on England in test matches and my data gathering has been for the last ten years. I have mentioned many times before that to profit from betting you have to specialise and that means specialising within a specific sport. A good proportion of my test match betting involves matches with England. Why? Well I simply know my home team far better than any other team. I also have a good understanding of match conditions and how they can influence an innings or a game. Of course one of the potential problems focusing on England is that there will be numerous other punters / traders that have a good knowledge of English cricket as well. It is my job therefore to be better informed and have a better understanding of the odds than the majority.
In terms of betting / trading test matches I tend to use Betfair for the vast majority of it; however there are times when I will use traditional bookmakers, usually if I find a potential option in the highest scoring batsman market – be it a particular innings or for the whole match or indeed the series. Gaining value in such markets is rare but not impossible. There is also the option of using a spread betting firm such as Sporting Index.
There are two markets I generally focus on in test matches and that is the Match Odds market and the Innings Runs market. With England I like the Innings Runs market and this is my focus for this piece. Right it is time to look at some stats ……
Over the past few years I have been collating stats in relation to England and their batting performance in tests, with the most interest in their first innings totals. I have of course done this for all countries too. So let me share some data with you. Firstly, the average first innings total scored by England in test matches between 2010 and 2019 was 342 – a reasonably decent looking figure. However, when we break this data down year by year we see some huge variances:
As the table shows in 2011 England averaged 500 runs in their first innings, well above the 10 year average; meanwhile when we look at last year (2019) we see the lowest average at just 244. Stats can be very useful, but it is important to understand why such variances occur. Indeed, you can get huge variances per series as well. In the 2010-2011 Ashes series for example England posted two scores in excess of 600 at Sydney and Adelaide (644 and 620 for 5 declared), whereas at Perth they were bowled out for a modest 187.
Past statistical data DOES have its place and markets have to take past performance / data into account. Average innings totals over a period of time do influence the market – they have to. If we combine all other main test playing countries first innings scores over the same 10 year period they average out to 336 – just 6 away from England’s average. Hence this is the type of figure markets must use as a starting point if nothing else. From there of course, there are many factors to take into account when trying to predict the score a team will achieve batting in the first innings of a test match. Here is list of what I perceive to be key. Some are perhaps more obvious than others:
1. Quality and make-up of your batting line up;
2. Quality and make-up of your opponents bowling attack;
3. Current form of the players in both teams;
4. Potential weather conditions;
5. The ground and likely pitch conditions;
6. Home ‘Advantage’;
7. Whether the team is batting first (eg first innings of the match), or second (eg their first innings but ‘in reply’);
So let me look in more detail at that list:
1. Clearly the quality of the batting line up is massive and with England there was a significant difference with the quality of their batsman at the start of the decade compared to the end. Combining 2010 and 2011 their first innings average score stood at 424; not only that they passed 400 runs 13 times in 22 tests (59% of matches). Their top order at this time was very settled with such names as Alistair Cook, Andrew Strauss, Kevin Pieterson, Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott. Of those five all bar Strauss averaged over 50 in tests during that 2 year period. Compare this to 2018-19 where England’s first innings average was a meagre 263 and in the 25 tests the team passed 400 just once (4%). In terms of individual batsman, no English batsman averaged over 40 during this period.
The make-up of the batting side can make a difference too depending on how many specialist bowlers you play and / or how many all rounders you have. Remember it is not just the top order that contribute to the final total it is all 11 players. Even a lower order batsman can make a difference one way or the other.
2. Just like the quality of the batting team is important so is the bowling attack they face. Probably the easiest way to highlight this is to go back to the time when the West Indies were clearly the best side in the world with a superb bowling attack. If we look at a 10 year set of data from 1976 to 1985 we can see that England’s first innings runs average against the West Indies was 248. Now compare this to 367 which is the average England achieved versus India in the same period. India’s bowling attack was not the strongest in those days and these figures clearly back this up.
3. Current form for both teams clearly plays a part because it doesn’t matter how good a player you are, your form does fluctuate. Taking Joe Root as an example, his form in the last two years has been relatively poor ‘for him’ averaging 39.1. Compare this to the 4 year period from 2014 and 2017 where he averaged just under 58. He is a top order batsman, but as I mentioned earlier we do have to take into account lower order batsman as well. Look at Stuart Broad as another example. His form with the bat has tailed off massively in recent years – in 2010/11 when one could argue he was an all rounder he averaged 29.5 in tests; in 2018 to 2019 it was just 8.2. An in form Root and an in form Broad compared with out of form versions of themselves potentially make a difference of 40 runs to England’s overall runs total. For those who trade in the first innings runs market 40 runs can be extremely significant.
4 & 5. I am lumping numbers 4 and 5 in the list together as there are strong correlations between the two. Weather conditions and the likely state of the pitch can have a big influence on how many runs are likely to be scored. In India for example the weather is usually warm and sunny, the pitches are fairly docile and there is little movement in the air or off the wicket for the bowlers. Therefore on Indian pitches batsman tend to be on top and this can be seen in the average first innings runs total for all test teams in the last 10 years which stands at 374. Not only that the India team bat particular well in such conditions because their average over the same period is an impressive 440 runs. In contrast, in England you get pitches where the ball generally moves around more of the seam and in the air. This is partly down to the climate and how the wickets are prepared. In England the average first innings runs total in the last 10 years stands at 320. 54 runs lower than the Indian figure.
6. Home advantage does count for a lot at cricket and this is generally down to the fact that the conditions (pitch, weather, etc) are far more familiar to the home side compared to the away side. Australia for example, their first innings runs average is 406 at home but when they are away in South Africa it stands at 310 while in England this drops further to 296.
7. Interestingly the team that bats first in the match averages more runs per innings than the team batting second in the match. Now they are both classed as their first innings, because they are the first innings in the match for each side, but I had not expected too much of a difference. Actually there is a difference of 24 runs (347 plays 323).
So we have the stats coupled with some theory. I will now take you through a ‘worked example’ of my trading. The game is very recent - it is the 2nd test at Cape Town against South Africa which started on 3rd Jan 2020. Now I need to make the point that I don’t trade every innings the same, but essentially I am looking for the same thing …. inaccuracies in the odds.
The bookies, Betfair and spread firms were expecting England to produce a first innings score of around 315-320. I thought this was maybe a little on the high side, but the general feeling was that the pitch would be decent enough at the start of the game despite some cracks, so I did not feel confident enough in making an early opening bet/trade. I decided to watch and wait to see if any opportunities arose. England lost an early wicket, recovered quite well getting to 63 before the next wicket fell. At 127 for 4 with Joe Root out, I was looking for potential options to lay England at the right price / runs total, but with Ben Stokes at the crease I decided to wait a bit longer. To trade effectively you do need to be patient; you also need to realise that you will make wrong call occasionally. England progressed to around 180 for 4 and at this point I was closely monitoring the Betfair first innings runs market. This market is not always ideal due to a lack of liquidity from time to time, but what it does offer is a variety of scores with a variety of prices. Scores on this particular market are offered in 25 run increments starting at ‘100 runs or more’ going up to ‘700 runs or more’. At 180 for 4 there was an opportunity to lay 250 runs or more at a price of 1.07. £100 was offered and I took it immediately. So essentially I was betting against England getting to 250 with a very low downside. If England scored less than 250 I would win £100 for a £7 outlay; if they scored 250 or more I would lose £7.
The reasoning behind my bet/trade was simple. England, in recent times, have collapsed and lost wickets in quick succession on more than one occasion. For example in the previous test against South Africa they collapsed in the first innings losing 7 wickets for 39 runs (going from 142 for 3 to 181 all out). Going back a further two tests and the first test of the winter versus New Zealand, England went from 277 for 4 to 353 all out (last 6 wickets amassing just 76 runs). I thought that 1.07 was simply a crazy price because of the fragility of their remaining batsmen. I would have though 1.16 to 1.20 was nearer the mark.
Now the plan would not normally be to let the bet run as I would be looking at trading out options should England lose another wicket or two in the near future.
Back to game and Stokes was dismissed with the score on 185. That was a timely wicket for me and I could have traded out fully at this point for a small profit as the price on 250 or more runs had gone up a little. However, I decided to only take a small chunk out lowering my liability down to just under £2, but still with a decent upside should things work in my favour. I was hoping for further quick wickets, but they did not immediately come and I was just about to close the trade for a very small profit when Jos Buttler was out with the score on 221. I again made a small trade which took my downside to £0 but still with a potentially fair upside. I was still hoping for another quick wicket or two and at 231 the 7th wicket fell, as did the 8th giving me an easy trade out for a reasonable profit. At 231 for 8 I left myself with a £23 win regardless of the final total. As it turned out the last wicket put on 35 and England finished on 269. If I had left the initial bet to run its course I would have lost that £7 stake.
A £7 outlay producing a £23 profit is good business IMO although I do appreciate that I am still learning when it comes to trading cricket, and that on this occasion some wickets did fall at the right time as far as I was concerned. What is clear though to me is that profits can be made trading cricket and should there be the interest from readers, I hope to expand on more ideas in the future.
This article was written by Dave but first appeared on the interesting OnCourseProfits.com website / magazine.
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