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South Africa is the world’s number one Test cricket team but the value in its two-match series against Pakistan, which gets under way in the United Arab Emirates on Monday 14 October 2013, lies in backing stalemates in the desert.
Bookmakers are taking no chances with South Africa, who is a massive 19 rating points ahead of England and India on the ICC Test Championship ladder, with Pakistan languishing in sixth position as the impact of not playing true home games kicks in. South Africa is available at odds of 2.15 with Bet365 to win the First Test and it is trading at odds of 1.80 with Boylesports to win the two-match series.
South Africa has not lost an away Test series since going down to Sri Lanka seven years ago, with the Proteas winning eight and drawing three of their subsequent 11 contests over the long haul. South Africa has a fine recent Test record versus sides from the subcontinent – it has lost only four of its last 20 games – and the Proteas thumped Pakistan 3-0 in the republic earlier this year. Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander ripped through Pakistan’s top order, snaring 20 and 15 wickets respectively in a one-sided Test series.
All those numbers plus this one – Pakistan has won only one of its last eight Test matches against anyone – should be sufficient to exclude the de facto home team from betting calculations, leaving one to decide between South Africa and the draw, both in the First Test and the two-game series. As the First Test draw is available at odds of 2.88 with Sky Bet and the two-match series draw is available at odds of 4.00 with Boylesports, it is the draws that appeal most.
The Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi is the venue for the First Test between Pakistan and South Africa. It has staged three Test games since Pakistan was banned from playing on Pakistani soil for security reasons and it has developed a reputation as a batsman’s paradise. Pakistan’s first-ever Test match in Abu Dhabi was versus South Africa in 2010, a game that Proteas batsman AB de Villiers will never forget because he hit 278 not out and shared a 179-run partnership with another centurion, Jacques Kallis, for his team’s fourth first-innings wicket. South Africa scored 584 runs for nine wickets before declaring but Pakistan bashed 434 runs in their first dig en route to securing a draw.
The next Test game at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium produced a draw between Pakistan and Sri Lanka – the two sides scored 511 runs for six wickets and 483 runs in their respective first innings – and the only reason why the next Test match in Abu Dhabi did not result in a draw was England’s poor play against spin bowling. Abdur Rehman grabbed six England wickets in the touring team’s second knock for 25 runs off only 10.1 overs. England capitulated to 72 runs all out.
Backing the First Test draw at odds of 2.88 looks like a very sound play, as does taking up Bet365 on its offer of 1.66 about a first-innings century. The three Test games at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium have produced five tons – three of them in first innings across two matches – and several near misses, including two scores in the 90s. All things being equal, the First Test draw should be the slight favourite and the odds about a first-innings century should be around the 1.50 mark, if not a little bit shorter given that South Africa’s batsmen are skilled in dealing with a turning ball and the pace bowlers of the Proteas are not going to enjoy toiling on what will be a dusty track in Abu Dhabi.
Even though the venue for the Second Test between Pakistan and South Africa is much more result friendly – the Dubai International Cricket Stadium has staged four Test games for three Pakistan wins and one draw – it is worth noting that the Pakistanis and the Proteas were the sides that drew there. Quite baffling is how Stan James has come up with odds of 9.00 about the two-match series ending 0-0.