Sri Lanka is a worthy favourite to win its First Twenty20 International against New Zealand but one should wait until after the toss before deciding whether to back the Sri Lankans or leave the match alone for betting purposes.
The Muttiah Muralitharan International Cricket Stadium in Pallekelle will stage the First Twenty20 International between Sri Lanka and New Zealand and, judging by the history books, batting first in Twenty20 International matches at the ground is something that pays off.
The Muttiah Muralitharan International Cricket Stadium has hosted 13 Twenty20 International games that have produced a positive result. The team batting first has won eight of those matches, with three victories for the side batting second and two ties that went to super overs. So it would seem that batting first at the venue offers an advantage that bookmakers are unlikely to factor in correctly.
Sri Lanka is the world’s number one Twenty20 International team having won 33 and lost 21 of its 54 completed games, including four of its six matches in 2013. Sri Lanka boasts two of the world’s top eight Twenty20 International bowlers according to the official rankings – Ajantha Mendis is in third place and Nuwan Kulasekara is in eighth position – plus the number crunchers are being harsh on Lasith Malinga, whose prowess in the hit-and-giggle format is better than his ranking of 18th suggests. It is no accident that many Twenty20 teams around the globe have spent big bucks on securing Malinga’s signature for domestic competitions.
And Sri Lanka is no slouch with the bat, either. Mahela Jayawardene is the number four Twenty20 International batsman and he has company in the form of Tillakaratne Dilshan (15th) and Kumar Sangakkara (16th). Sri Lanka is a well rounded Twenty20 International side, unfortunately something that cannot be said of it in the Test arena.
New Zealand is no pushover in Twenty20 International games but the Black Caps are much weaker without their undoubted format star, Brendon McCullum. New Zealand officials ruled that McCullum and another Black Caps batsman, Ross Taylor, would not tour Sri Lanka so that they could prepare for their country’s upcoming home Test series versus the West Indies by playing some red-ball cricket in the land of the long white cloud. McCullum is number two in the Twenty20 International batting rankings so no team, let alone one that is rated the world’s seventh best, is going to play well without him. McCullum is a power hitter who can take Twenty20 matches away from opponents so he is a big loss.
Another negative for New Zealand is the absence of Martin Guptill, who is the seventh highest batsman in the Twenty20 International rankings. Only one New Zealand squad member features in the top 20 of either the Twenty20 International batting or the Twenty20 International bowling rankings – Nathan McCullum is 12th with the ball – so the Black Caps are nowhere near as well credentialed as their hosts.
Bookmakers are being slow to frame markets on the First Twenty20 International between Sri Lanka and New Zealand but Ladbrokes and William Hill are offering odds of 1.50 about the home side winning the series opener. If Sri Lanka gets to bat first at the Muttiah Muralitharan International Cricket Stadium then those odds will be attractive.
Dilshan was Sri Lanka’s leading light during its recent One Day International series against New Zealand, scoring half centuries in all three games, hitting a high score of 81 runs and averaging 94.50 runs thanks to one unbeaten knock. So Dilshan, once a sufficient number of bookmakers go up with top Sri Lanka batsman odds, should be the home player on whom exotic betting punters should focus their attention.
Sri Lanka and New Zealand are scheduled to play two Twenty20 International matches, with the Muttiah Muralitharan International Cricket Stadium staging both clashes.