I don’t like cricket

Spread betting on 20:20 cricket

There’s a paradox inherent in talking about betting strategy in that as soon as a profitable strategy begins to emerge and gathers momentum, the market will adjust to compensate. There are urban legends of punters making a living by selling bookings in every Premier League match, but it is hard to imagine that this is true or sustainable.

The other paradox, better known as Sod’s Law, is suggest something and the next match will prove you disastrously wrong.

Start the car

Nevertheless, I thought it might be interesting to share some thoughts on Twenty20 cricket and a few considerations when taking a position. (I’m thinking predominantly here about the English domestic competition rather than the IPL – a different kettle’o’fish.)

Conditions: We all know when betting on cricket the significance of pitch and atmospheric conditions. Many a total runs bet has been destroyed by an ignored forecast and the ‘pitch’ and its shamanic reading probably has greater impact on a runs quote than the quality of the batting line-up. However, these considerations are perhaps less important in T20 than both other longer forms of the game. (Having said that, if the pitch looks a belter, if it’s gleaming at you through Sky Sports HD to the point where you’d fancy Charles Colville (or Ian Ward) to make some, then by all means buy – the recent Kent vs Middlesex clash at Canterbury is a case in point).

Perhaps more relevant, especially when considering innings runs, is the size of a playing area. T20 is all about finding the boundary and, obviously, this is a good deal easier to do at a cosy postage stamp like Taunton or Chelmsford than a vast savannah like The Oval. Sure, boundaries might be brought in, but there must be something psychological about the proximity of the stands that aids plonking the white ball in or over them.

Naturally, the trader has access to the information too, alongside lists of previous scores at the ground to feed into his algorithm. But, often, it’s half the battle to understand why prices are what they are.

Rhythm: it’s a myth that T20 is 120 balls of frenetic slogging. A T20 innings has ebb and flow as much as an ODI or Test affair. Developing an intuition for the likely shifts in momentum is one of the most profitable things you can do.

Remember the innings starts with a 6 over powerplay during which the only two fielders are allowed to roam the deep – runs will often flow in this opening period; just don’t get carried away.

For example, an opening quote for a setting (i.e. first inns) side’s total runs might be around the 150 mark. Reach 60/1 after 6 and the spread will escalate to, say, 180+. This can be an opportunistic moment to sell: often a spinner will be introduced and the batters, who looked so confident biffing county medium-fasters to the ropes, will find run scoring more difficult.

The downside is limited, totals of 200+ are rare in domestic T20, and the potential for collapse works in your favour.

Picking the ideal moment to sell after an initial buy of runs is one of the most pleasing moments in cricket betting.

It’s never a lost cause: Start the car, launch the pedalo, call it what you will – often the moment at which a match seems done-and-dusted can be premature.

The limited overs supremacy works in a slightly odd manner as the spread firm needs to fashion a way of quantifying the scale of victory or defeat. On Sporting Index, in a successful run chase, the team batting second is awarded 10 pts per wicket remaining at victory (maximum make up is therefore 100). For example, Warwickshire ‘Bears’ are playing Sussex ‘Sharks’: Warks chase down Sussex’s 137/2 inside the 20 overs finishing on 139/7 – the make up is 30 points Warwickshire over Sussex. If the setting side win, the makeup is the run margin of victory. In the example above, if Warks collapsed to 90 all out, the make up would be 47 points Sussex over Warwickshire.

In many ways this is an unsatisfying index because it has no way of taking into account the relative closeness of a match in terms of balls remaining. It also introduces volatility (cf recent England/West Indies T20 international) when a chasing side doesn’t lose wickets but is still struggling against the run rate.

This market favours a chasing side. Whilst a 6 wicket victory is pretty common, it is unusual barring collapse, for a side batting second to fall 40 runs short of a reasonable target. For this reason, always best to wait for the toss before thinking about a position.

What does all this mean? I have found that Sporting Index often underestimates the chance of a struggling chase to get close to the target. If a chasing side are, say, 30/3 off 7 pursuing 160, the supremacy market will often give the fielding side more credit than they deserve (perhaps 25-30 in their favour). In this situation, I like to get with the floundering chasers as they are only 2 good overs from getting back into contention and, often, fielding sides will allow a batting unit to coast to a decent total as long as they feel the target is never truly threatened.

Remember, the joy of spread betting is that a side doesn’t have to win to make you money – getting closer than the market predicts is good enough.

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