England smashed the Aussies at Edgbaston yesterday in the semi-final of the cricket world cup. It’s been a slow burner of a tournament, not helped by its drawn-out format and it being live only on Sky. But now England head to Lord’s for the final on Sunday against New Zealand in swashbuckling form and as 1/3 (1.34 on Betfair) favourites.
Sky have agreed for the broadcast to be free-to-air on Channel 4 (More4 while the F1 is on). This will give it potential at least to be a national experience (there is serious viewing competition with Federer v Djokovic over at Wimbledon but many will keep an eye on both). Over the last few years it feels like cricket has lost a lot of its wide appeal. The exclusive Sky deal has been blamed but also the game is more fragmented now with T20 tournaments dominating players’ motivations due to the money on offer. For many fans the game as a whole has felt less captivating during this period of rapid change. A first England cricket world cup win can cut through to the mainstream once more.
There always scope for an upset but if England perform as they have in their last three games they should win. It would surely be the highlight of the sporting year.
It’s always tricky to know who to back SPOTY-wise in team sports and a match-winning performance in the final could be key – it could come from anyone in this team. The upcoming Ashes complicates things a little too and there’s a nagging doubt about what a series loss against Australia would do to SPOTY prices. But an England victory would keep cricket in the news all the way through to September. England are 10/11 (1.85) favourites. It seems best to focus on those who’ll be involved on Sunday and in the Ashes. Joe Root, the test captain, is the obvious one. He’s currently clear as England’s leading run scorer in the world cup. The market has picked him out as the most likely too. Jason Roy will probably be invited to open in the Ashes. With Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler they have the ability to cause carnage in the final and in the tests.
Jofra Archer is England’s leading wicket taker in the world cup and looks sure to make his test debut. Ben Stokes is always involved in the thick of the action whenever he plays and Chris Woakes has been in top form. These look to be the main players with Root most likely to be the face of the summer.
In terms of SPOTY positions it will be worth keeping an eye on key performances in the final, although prices could go quickly. The top of the SPOTY market looks there for the taking so it’s worth an interest at this stage in the hope England get over the line with the risk being the match winning performance comes from someone else. It’s might be worth a small cover on one-day captain Eoin Morgan even though he won’t play tests – Barry McGuigan will tell you the Irish can win SPOTY too -although I’d be surprised if he’d be shortlisted or poll above others.
* 1.5 pts win Joe Root 8/1 general
* 0.2 pts win on each of Jonny Bairstow 50/1 general; Eoin Morgan 20/1 Bet Victor, Unibet; Jos Buttler 50/1 Ladbrokes/Coral; Jason Roy 33/1 general; Jofra Archer 100/1 Sky Bet, 40/1 general; Ben Stokes 50/1 general (couldn’t see Woakes listed but is on Betfair)
* 2 pts lay England v New Zealand at 1.35 (liability 0.7 pts) on Betfair exchange as cover
Looking at the rest of the SPOTY market, Lewis Hamilton is cruising along and is set for a sixth world championship. But he always is vulnerable to a more unusual achievement. Dina Asher-Smith has been beaten twice recently in the 100m and it will be tough for her this year in the world championships. While Raheem Sterling has been in great form and a respected voice against racism, his sporting achievements might make it difficult to get on the shortlist.
Last year’s SPOTY winner Geraint Thomas is showing good form in the Tour De France and trades around evens to win it. Froome not making the shortlist after wining the Tour creates some doubt as to whether Thomas will be on it this year but he would likely trade a lot shorter than the current 16/1 if he won a second yellow jersey. He also has the world championships in September in Yorkshire where he’d have a good chance in the time trial event.
* 1 pt win Geraint Thomas 16/1 Ladbrokes/Coral, William Hill
(available to lay for Tour De France at around 2.24 on Betfair if wanting to cover)