Cricket: Finding value in side markets

Professional Betfair Cricket punter explains how to find value within Most Sixes, First Dismissal, Highest Over Total & Innings Runs side markets.

While the match odds will always be the most actively traded and most liquid market in cricket matches, there are still plenty of opportunities within the less popular side markets.

These markets may attract less attention, however if you adopt the right approach there are still inefficiencies to be found.  Below I detail recommendations on how to approach finding value in some common side markets as well as identifying frequent misconceptions and mistakes made by punters.

 

Most Sixes and First Dismissal

Although these markets are quite different in their nature the general approach to finding a winner is often quite similar – look at the team with the most powerful and destructive batsmen for the most sixes market, and look at how the openers generally get out for the first dismissal market.

However, this approach ignores a crucial component of the equation – the bowlers! Just as there will be batsmen who are more likely to hit sixes, there will be bowlers more likely to be hit for six. Similarly while two opening batsman may have a tendency to get out caught, there’s less chance of that happening if they face bowlers who claim a high proportion of their wickets with bowled or LBW dismissals.

Starting with the most sixes market, you would think it should be relatively safe to assume that a team bristling with hitters such as Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and Shane Watson, and who blasted their way to the final of a tournament, would have regularly hit more sixes than their opposition?

Indeed, more often than not, the IPL side Royal Challengers Bangalore did come out on top of the Most Sixes market, however they still managed to be hit for more sixes than they managed themselves in almost 40% of their matches in this year’s (2016) tournament. That’s because not only did their squad comprise a collection of big hitters, but it was also low on quality bowling options which meant that while they hit plenty, they also conceded plenty too, illustrating the importance of bowlers to this market.

Going back a bit further to the final of the 2015 World Cup and in six of their prior eight games the New Zealand opening partnership had been broken by a caught dismissal. One might then conclude that the smart money would have been on the Kiwis to lose either Brendon McCullum or Martin Guptill – both of whom like to hit the ball in the air – in the same fashion again, however punters with that mindset would have been ignoring the propensity of Mitchell Starc to spear the ball in at the batsman with the primary aim of eliciting a bowled or LBW dismissal.

Of course Starc famously castled McCullum’s stumps with the fifth ball of the match to take his 21st wicket of the tournament – 12 of which were bowled. So while it is said that cricket is a batsman’s game, don’t forget the bowlers when you come to consider these markets or you may be costing yourself a winner.

 

Highest 6/10/15 Over Total

Limited overs matches provide the opportunity to back either side to be in front at earlier stages of the game and these markets often contain unique value in relation to the overall match odds. The recommended approach to these markets simply uses a combination of the advice above from some of the other side markets.

Firstly, look not just at overall totals or averages – i.e. Team A average 55 in the first 10 overs – but look at the proportion of times each team finishes ahead of their opposition at the relevant mark. Each individual match is different with varying conditions and circumstances.

If a team has played on particularly difficult pitches recently then an average score of 40 after six overs may have been enough for them to be in front more often than not, and similarly if a team has spent most of their time on flat pitches then scores in excess of 60 after six overs may still have seen them behind. Another important factor to consider here is how often a team has batted first or second and how this impacts their chances of being in front at the designated period of the match.

Secondly – don’t forget the bowlers again. Using our favourite example of RCB in this year’s IPL (2016), despite the presence of Gayle, Kohli and de Villiers in their top-order (with the latter two both finishing in the top three run-scorers across the entire tournament), they only finished ahead of their opponents at the six over mark in just over half of their matches, proving that an explosive top-three can be neutralised by a leaky bowling attack. So always make sure to give equal weight to the amount of runs conceded by a fielding side during those early overs as you do to the amount of runs scored by the batting side.

 

Innings Runs

Unlike bookmakers who generally set one innings runs total to bet over or under, Betfair’s Exchange allows you to back or lay teams to reach certain totals within 10-to-50 runs intervals, depending on the format of the match.

The key to unlocking value in this market mirrors one of my earlier points about understanding varying degrees of volatility. A classic demonstration of volatility comes from analysing recent matches at South Africa’s New Wanderers Stadium. In the past 15 ODIs at the ground going back to the start of 2008, only two first innings scores have landed between 235 and 290 with four under 200 and six in excess of 300 (including South Africa’s whopping 2/439 against the West Indies last year) which represents incredible volatility.

Using this data the market is likely to take into account that the average first innings total in that time has been 263, however it is unlikely to acknowledge that such a high proportion of scores have been at the extreme end of either spectrum, opening up opportunities to potentially back 325 or lay 225 at attractive prices.

Conditions aren’t the only variable for volatility, however, with the composition of each team also a very important factor. For example, take this year’s IPL champions Sunrisers Hyderabad (2016) who had a very top-heavy batting unit dominated by opening pair David Warner and Shikhar Dhawan who contributed more than half of the runs scored for Sunrisers this year.

If Warner and Dhawan got off to a good start then it gave Hyderabad the opportunity to post a monster total, however if they both fell early it exposed a much weaker middle-order and left them susceptible to a particularly low score.

This was borne out in their first innings totals where six of nine were either over 190 or under 150 which again suggests that there was plenty of value in backing the higher lines and laying the lower lines at big prices. Whilst no doubt there are other successful strategies relating to the Innings Runs market that don’t always rely on targeting the extreme lines, if you can identify situations that are prone to volatility then there is potential to gain some traction with minimal liability in this market.

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