Little Master can help to claim big prize for India

SRI LANKA vs INDIA

TOMORROW – 10.00 AM SKY SPORTS 1

THE World Cup has got that morning-after-the-night-before feeling of overindulgence about it; however, if the knock-out phase was the Alka-Seltzer to the group stages, then a final between Sri Lanka and India will bring even the weariest back to life.

Few can dispute that the best two teams have reached showdown, even if eliminated semi-finalists New Zealand and, especially, Pakistan deserve honourable mentions. A spin-lite Australia were too one-dimensional; South Africa bottled it again; England were shattered even before the action began. Bangladesh and West Indies have plenty to do and, other than Ireland, the Associates will be lucky to be invited back to the top table. Neither Sri Lanka nor India topped their qualification pools, but showed exactly why they were antepost favourites, flexing their muscles when it really mattered in the quarter and semi-finals. There’s little between the sides, but the bookies have India in front at 4/6 with Sri Lanka 11/8.

As co-hosts, both teams have had to deal with the pressure that brings. They have used it as a boost rather than burden, so it is to India’s advantage that the final takes place at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium, a ground with a stand named after local hero Sachin Tendulkar. Having been with MS Dhoni’s men all along, as this column’s 3/1 pre-tournament fancy, there’s no reason to jump ship. However, canny traders could lay off India on Betdaq at around 4/6 to ensure a profit, no matter the outcome.

The countries bring six of the top eight World Cup scorers so we might reasonably anticipate an entertaining encounter. Only three runs separate Sri Lanka’s Tillakaratne Dilshan (467) and Tendulkar (464) at the head of the rankings and the Little Master is 6/1 to record his hundredth century on this grandest of stages. India flew out the blocks against Pakistan and that hectic start typifies their competition. On average, they have 92 runs on the board after 15 overs. Only twice in eight matches did they trail at this stage, against England and West Indies, and in the latter by just three runs. Sri Lanka’s mean at this point is 79 runs, therefore India look good at 8/11 with Victor Chandler to have the best first 15 overs.

Despite top of the order prolificacy, India lack support further down and that provides another trading opportunity, if they bat first, which they will surely look to. The fall of the fourth wicket has been a key landmark. India went from 4/305 to 10/338 against England, from 4/268 to 10/296 versus South Africa, from 4/218 to 10/268 when facing West Indies, then, a little more respectably, from 4/141 to 9/258 against Pakistan. Therefore, selling India runs with Sporting Index in-running could be worthwhile if they appear set for a big total.

Pointers...
India to score most runs in first 15 overs at 8/11 with Victor Chandler

Sell India runs after fourth wicket with Sporting Index (if batting first)

Already advised...
India to win the World Cup at 3/1 with Victor Chandler (18 Feb 2011)

WEST HAM vs MANCHESTER UNITED

TOMORROW – 12.45 PM SKY SPORTS 2

SHOULD Manchester United not lift the title then the blame can be laid squarely at the door of their away form. From 15 road trips they have four wins. Their 20-point away haul is less than Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham, while even Newcastle and Blackpool have claimed more maximums on their travels.

West Ham may not find a better time to face United, Victor Chandler’s 5/6 favourites. Rio Ferdinand is out indefinitely and the erstwhile England captain is joined on the sidelines by a number of colleagues. The visitors still pose plenty of attacking threat, but Avram Grant’s men can trouble United’s makeshift backline and goals could be on the cards. At least three have been scored in nine of 15 Upton Park league games this season and six of those have seen four strikes or more. Similarly, 11 of United’s 15 away fixtures have witnessed at least three strikes, with seven aggregating four or more.

Sporting Index predict 2.7-2.9 goals and I’d go long of that spread. Similarly, backing over 2.5 goals at 10/11 on Betdaq is sensible, with the last four fixtures in all competitions between the pair averaging 3.5 goals. The most recent saw the Irons inflict United’s first loss of the campaign with a 4-0 hiding in the Carling Cup. A repeat is around 200/1 and although that is a nonsense bet, there is incentive in siding with the Hammers who are unbeaten in four and have won both of their previous Boleyn outings.

Taking West Ham at 12/5 in the ‘draw no bet’ market with Victor Chandler could be worthwhile against a United side far from their best. They have lost on three of their previous four league away days and had an uncomfortable afternoon against Bolton at Old Trafford last time out.

Pointers...
West Ham ‘draw no bet’ at 12/5 with Victor Chandler

Over 2.5 goals at 10/11 on Betdaq

BEHIND THE LINES

It’s fitting that the final of the World Cup will be contested between the two best sides, but India are deservedly favourites. The ultimate stage is set for Sachin Tendulkar to cement his reputation as the best batsmen since Don Bradman or for Murali to bow out on the highest of highs. Most of us here can’t wait and we just hope it lives up to its billing, rather than being decided by the toss.

West Ham have improved of late but Man United are still stumbling through the season, showing a vulnerability that hasn’t yet manifested itself in results. However, the international break is likely to affect United more in this so we go a best-price 15/4 for a West Ham win. It will be interesting to see how Scott Parker plays after an impressive appearance in England colours last weekend - he is currently 13/2 in our Player of the Year market and he could do himself a few favours if his form continues.