Blackwood and Roach stand out wagers



West Indies v Sri Lanka
Sunday 21 March, 14:00
TV: live on BT Sport

Brathwaite in charge

West Indies have a new captain in Kraigg Brathwaite. Brathwaite was hugely impressive in West Indies’ surprise 2-0 win away in Bangladesh, which Holder missed because of Covid concerns.

Brathwaite leads a squad which is as naturally talented as any in the world. Kyle Mayers, who made 210 not out in an extraordinary win on debut, is the cream of an exciting crop.

But there is durability. Brathwaite, Daren Bravo and Jermaine Blackwood can drop anchor with the bat while pace trio Holder, Shannon Gabriel and Kemar Roach are first class.

Possible XI Brathwaite, Campbell, Bravo, Bonner, Blackwood, Mayers, De Silva, Holder, Cornwall, Roach, Gabriel

Mathews absent

Sri Lanka lost the T20 series 2-1 and were then swept away in the three-game ODI series. Hopes of an upturn in fortune in the Test series have been dealt a blow already.

Despite picking nine batsmen in a warm-up match against a representative XI, Sri Lanka could muster only 176. Their batting concerns are justified considering Angelo Mathews, their best player, has left the tour for personal reasons.

They have a poor away record to overturn if they are to beat West Indies. Sandwiched either side of a stunning upset in South Africa in 2019 are only two wins in 21. One positive of those wins, however, was in Bridgetown in 2018.

Lanka have solid individuals who, if at their best, can trouble the hosts. Dimuth Karunaratne, the skipper, and Dinesh Chandimal are solid. Much is expected of emerging talent Oshada Fernando. Suranga Lakmal, the wily pacer, can form a potent partnership with spin whizz Lasith Embuldeniya.

Possible XI Thirimanne, Karunaratne, O Fernando, Roshen, Chandimal, Dickwella, Dhananjaya, Shanaka, Lakmal, A Fernando, Embuldeniya

Pitch report

There have been eight Tests at North Sound. Five have produced results. There is nothing to get excited about in terms of a toss bias. But the quicks could be licking their lips. The venue has a history, albeit short, of assisting. Roach, Gabriel and Holder razed England there in 2019 for 187 and 132. Domestically, there have been low scores, too.

On a pacey wicket, Sri Lanka, low on confidence and skill in alien conditions, look vulnerable. Going low on their innings runs – 180, 190, 200 – could well pay off for minimal risk. No rain is currently forecast for the five days.

Windies too skinny

West Indies are 1.715/7, Sri Lanka 3.3512/5 and the draw 7.807/1. Despite doubts about Sri Lanka’s gumption and ability, it is very hard to make a case for the home team being value at such a skinny price.

The Windies are a work in progress, and I’m sure we’ve been saying that for about four years, but they are a team to only back at odds-against, as witnessed by their win in Bangladesh and their upset against England in Southampton in the summer.

The best play for this market is to hope for some movement on that Sri Lanka price. If they were to bowl first and make use of a fast wicket, enough clicks could come off their odds for a trade

Tops value

The side markets are where the value is at. There are two standout wagers for top West Indies bat and Bowler – Jermaine Blackwood and Kemar Roach respectively.

Blackwood has a double century on this ground only last year and on win rate he is vastly underrated at 6/1. He should be 4/1 on how often he wins. Roach should be shorter than 11/4 (he wins just shy of 35% of markets) and is one of the most reliable top bowler wagers in the format.

For Sri Lanka, Chandimal is similarly underrated at 5/1. He is copping 31% of the time and with no Mathews around he has little to beat. We note Dhananjaya’s price at 9/1 but we were hoping for something in the teens.

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