There’s plenty for cricket fans and punters to get stuck into over the festive period. Firstly, there’s South Africa v Pakistan 1st Test Match; there’s also the all-important 3rd Test Match between Australia and India; furthermore, there’s the 2nd Test between New Zealand and Sri Lanka both taking place on Christmas evening. Both hang in the balance with the series tied level in each, making for a thrilling renewal.
In the early hours of Boxing Day, a spectacular round of live sport gets started with the 1st Test Match between South Africa and Pakistan going from 8.00am GMT. If you’ve been making merry the night before this is still one worth setting your alarm for; as well as an evenly matched and entertaining opener, it also gives you the chance to boost your betting balance in plenty of time for the various treats that lie ahead.
These include a packed British football fixture list and more UK and Irish horse races than you’ve likely seen before, headlined by 2018 renewal of the King George at Kempton. Check out our various sports pages for the latest and best betting tips and predictions on all the afternoon’s talking points.
Let’s concentrate on South Africa v Pakistan: both nations aim to get off to a winning start and there’s plenty to bet on with lots of value waiting to be uncovered by eagle-eyed punters. If you’re a casual cricket fan, or even just a punter waiting for more high-profile sports fixtures taking place later in the day, a well-placed bet on the outcome will make this tie all the most interesting.
Let’s take a look at the recent form of both nations in the hope it pushes us towards a winner…
South Africa set-up with confidence
Walking on to Supersport Park, Centurion will be South Africa’s first outing since piling pressure on old rivals Australia on the road in November, a result the victors took great satisfaction from. Having dominated the One Day International series, they continued their winning ways onto the one and only Twenty20 match of their whistle-stop tour of the country.
With the hosts bogged down by off-field problems and the ball-tampering scandal that had plagued Australian cricket since April showing no signs of letting up, OZ was there for the taking and their opponents didn’t need to be asked twice. SA rallied to an impressive 21-run victory on 17 November, a result that pushed the beaten side to breaking point, clearing the way for wide-spread change.
They may not have meant it, but it would appear South Africa did Australia a favour by sticking the boot in and reminding them just how far off the pace they had fallen while bickering amongst themselves. The match finished Australia 87-7 / South Africa 108-6.
That set the team up nicely and despite the obvious change in format, the confidence that comes with getting the last laugh over Australia means the hosts now prepare with confidence running through the ranks. That spells trouble for Pakistan as a SA team with self-belief is a match for any side in Test Match cricket.
Pakistan target an upset
Pakistan hasn’t had as much luck as its opponents in recent outings and this will be the team’s first match since losing to New Zealand in Test Match cricket. They started that three-Test series with a painful four-run defeat but rallied to get back on level terms with a 16-run victory in the 2nd Test. That paved the way for a dramatic conclusion, but they ended on the wrong side of the result when it mattered most.
With the pressure on both nations to deliver a win for their support, it was New Zealand who stood up to be counted, batting their way to a stunning 123-run victory to win the series 2-1. If you’re going to claim a decider that’s certainly a convincing way to get the job done and there could be no arguments from either half of the divide about who deserved to come out on top.
Pakistan was sent off to lick their wounds and try to take the positives from the series, as well as learn from the errors they made in good time for the trek to South Africa. They will target an upset in this series and the best way to achieve that is to get off to a flyer and claim the opener but if they are to do that they’ll manage it against the expectations of bookmakers and many experts.
Bookies go with home cheer
Although many expect a close-run start to this series, with both teams keen to avoid any early mistakes that could come back to haunt them, bookmakers have had no trouble pinning their colours to the mast. Those who hold the purse strings have come down in support of South Africa and a look at the latest betting odds on Coral shows they are confident about their selection too.
Punters eager to follow traders will find South Africa have been chalked up at 2/5 and, as mentioned, that’s a bold call. The draw is yours at 6/1 and we really wouldn’t be in a rush to argue against anyone who fancied having a play on that at interest stakes.
The upset win for Pakistan goes 7/2 and although that’s the kind of price we love backing, our team think there’s no joy to be had in taking a punt on the underdogs. Back South Africa and add them to your accumulators, they should have no problem helping you out and although the price is short, it’ll work towards boosting your overall returns.
Looking for a bigger price? We suggest playing Coral’s South Africa top 1st innings batsman market where Aiden Markram is your 7/2 favourite, level with Dean Elger who shares a price. Both men are ahead of our pick Faf du Plessis at 4/1 and Hashim Amla, also 4/1. Others at enhanced odds are Quinton de Kock and Temba Bavuma 7/1 each of two.