Weekly Articles "Road to Riches" by Rich 'Tighty' Prew

The Road to Riches Weekend of 13th-14th April

Posted on 12 Apr 2024 11:27 in Weekly Articles "Road to Riches" by Rich 'Tighty' Prew

Coming up this weekend

  • Horse Racing, On the flat at Great Yarmouth, over the jumps at Aintree, Chepstow and Newcastle and on the all-weather at Chelmsford City and Wolverhampton.
  • Football, Premier League fixtures include Arsenal v Aston Villa.
  • Rugby Union, the Champions Cup Quarter-Finals.
  • Cricket, The IPL continues.
  • Golf, the RBC Heritage and Punta Cana Championships on the USPGA.
  • Tennis, The ATP BMW, Barcelona and Bucharest Opens.

Free Tip

European Champions Cup Rugby Quarter Final Leinster v La Rochelle Saturday 5.30pm

The Quarter finals of the competition follow quickly on the heels of the last 16 last weekend, with this week’s four matches shown below with seedings in brackets and the current point spread for each game shown:

Toulouse (1)-Exeter (8) Toulouse -21

Bordeaux (4) – Quins (5) Bordeaux -17

Leinster (2) -La Rochelle (10) Leinster -8

Northampton (3) -Bulls (6) Northampton -10

Bordeaux's performance putting 55 points on Saracens was probably the most impressive of the last weekend, a form team with a brilliant back division and a coming force in European rugby but to win the competition this year they will have to get past two of Europe’s big 3 sides (Toulouse, Leinster and La Rochelle, the only sides to feature in the last three finals) to change the guard of European rugby.

Leinster and La Rochelle are frequent rivals in this competition in recent years, this will be their fifth meeting in the last four years. Three years ago La Rochelle won at home in a semi final against Leinster 32-23, before La Rochelle beat Leinster in successive finals in Marseille and Dublin before Leinster won their first game of the Pool stages this year in La Rochelle, in bad weather, 16-9.

Coach Ronan O’Gara, helped by the generous French Top 14 salary cap, had previously assembled a squad of “Galacticos” that led them to their recent success. However the side has regressed slightly this year, losing two of four pool games meaning a third placed finish, only a 10th seed for the knockouts and a last 16 game/quarter final tie away from home.

In the domestic Top 14 La Rochelle are 5th, having lost half of their 20 games.

Although the first-choice forward pack remains a top unit, headlined by Captain Gregory Alldritt, Will Skelton, Uini Atonio and Fijian Levani Botia (although the two French U20 players in the front row are going to have quite the task against Porter, Sheehan and Furlong) the back line is beginning to look a bit old in the tooth in rugby terms. Looking at the team for the last sixteen game with ages of the 9-15 players in brackets:  Kerr-Barlow (33), Hastoy (31), Danty (31), Seuteni (30), Leyds (31), Thomas (30) / Nowell (31) & Dulin (34).

What La Rochelle do have, and this experience brings, is big game temperament and will to win. Last weekend in Cape Town, after an 8,000-mile trip, La Rochelle were 16-0 down to the Stormers and came back to win by a point, becoming the first ever European team to win in South Africa in the Champions Cup.

La Rochelle are responsible for the only two knockout stage away wins in the last two years of this tournament, having won the final in Dublin last year. In that match they were down 17 points. They are a tough team to put away.

Given their form this year, and at the end of an 8,000-mile round trip, La Rochelle should certainly be underdogs for this game before we even consider the task that awaits them from facing Leinster at the Aviva Stadium.

Leinster’s side last weekend featured 13 players who had played for Ireland in this year’s Six Nations, are top of the current URC table with 11 wins from 13 games and have added South Africa Rugby World Cup winning coach Jacques Nienaber to the coaching team.

With the cohesiveness brought from years of familiarity added to by the spark of world class players like Gibson-Park and Lowe at 9 and 11 Leinster won all four of their pool games before Christmas and beat Leicester by 14 points last weekend without being near their best.

The point spread is interesting though, Leinster -8 from -7 when the tie was confirmed. I’d struggle to suggest Leinster would win by more than a score against opponents of this big game experience and quality. I expect Leinster to win, but narrowly.

11 points La Rochelle +8 points at 10/11 generally


Grassroots

Until this season Italy had finished last in the Six Nations nine times in a row, at times the laughing stock of European rugby. Winners of the wooden spoon 18 times in 24 years, never escaping from the pool stage in the Rugby World Cup and never higher than eighth in the world rankings.

Italy is a country of nearly 60 million people where football is everything. Rugby is tiny, behind basketball, volleyball, tennis, motorsport and cycling with just two professional clubs, Benetton and Zebre, which are both in the North and have never finished in the top half of the URC league.

Then came this season and after a final round 24-21 victory in Cardiff Italy secured their best-ever Six Nations campaign by results, in tandem with the other story that was the alarming, utterly shambolic performance that Wales produced as they picked up the wooden spoon.

In the Six Nations Italy picked up two wins and a draw, better than their two win results in both 2007 and 2013.

During the tournament they were magnificent at the breakdown, overpowering in defence, in the ascendancy at times in the scrum and both classy and clinical out wide in finishing their chances.

This improvement has been a long time coming, dating back to at least 2015 and changes to the Italian academies and grassroots rugby in a system developed by Callum O’Shea and then former All Black Kieran Crowley first introducing the young players coming through the system into first team rugby at Benetton then into the Test team when he took over as national coach.

Since 2015 Italian playing numbers have grown four-fold whilst 12 academies have been consolidated with the best 130 under 18 players concentrated into four regional academies. At under 20s level this was whittled down to the top 35 in one academy. All of this was residential, with the players getting the best possible input five days a week.

Instead of adopting an approach of concentrating financial resource on more pro clubs (see Australia, where going from spending 15% on community rugby to 2.4% has been a disaster.) as younger players matured Benetton improved in the URC, won the Pro 14 Rainbow Cup, finished second in the Scottish/Italian Shield and made the semi-final of the European Challenge Cup.

The U20 side in the 2024 Six Nations managed two wins (including over France) and lost to Ireland by a point. The senior side is up to a World ranking of 8th.

Wales meanwhile are being left behind badly and though there is some promise from a group of willing youngsters (Mason Grady, Tomos Williams and Rio Dyer notably) there would appear to be much more pain ahead with heavy  Ball carriers and “go forward” completely lacking.

A fifth Six Nations defeat in the final match against Italy brought a first whitewash since 2003 and Wales have lost 12 of the past 13 Six Nations matches and of their four regional teams the Scarlets were the last region to win league silverware, lifting the Pro14 title in 2017, with Cardiff winning Europe's Challenge Cup the following year.

The Ospreys are the only Welsh professional side to beat a non-Welsh team in 2024 as the regions have struggled with reduced finances and questions over whether the country can sustain four teams in the URC.

With difficulties over the funding of grass roots rugby and for the national side a 25 cap rule in place (players based overseas with less than 25 caps are not eligible for the national team) meaning not every player is available to them it is difficult to see a quick turn-around.

The WRU is currently undertaking a structural review of the game in Wales which chief executive Abi Tierney said would "not only cover the elite men's and women's game" but would be "an all-encompassing strategy that covers the community and regional game". Results are expected by June.

Welsh rugby is in a dark place, the darkest since the last wooden spoon in 2003, with years of under-investment in the pro team game and its pathways having come home to roost.

Perhaps they should mirror the Italian approach of a decade ago, and play the long game by focussing on grassroots and wait for that investment to play off down the line.


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The Road to Riches Weekend of 6th-7th April

Posted on 4 Apr 2024 09:16 in Weekly Articles "Road to Riches" by Rich 'Tighty' Prew

Coming up this weekend

  • Horse Racing, On the flat at Musselburgh, over the jumps at Carlisle, Haydock and Newton Abbot and on the all-weather at Wolverhampton.
  • Football, Premier League fixtures include Manchester United v Liverpool.
  • Formula One, the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka
  • Rugby Union, the Champions Cup last Sixteen matches
  • Cricket, The IPL continues.
  • Golf, the Masters next week at Augusta.
  • Tennis, The ATP Monte Carlo Masters

Aintree Grand National Festival (Full Package) 11th-13th April 2024

After a profitable Cheltenham we move on to the three-day Aintree Grand National Festival next Thursday. Available for £99 here


 

ree Tip

The Masters

Jon Rahm returns to Augusta after a four-shot win in 2023 and the No. 3 player in the Official World Golf Rankings has finished top-10 in his last seven worldwide starts. Rahm will try to become the first player since Tiger Woods in 2001 and 2002 to win back-to-back green jackets and he's finished top-10 in five of his last six starts at Augusta National. Rahm is 12-1 in the 2024 Masters odds, trailing only Scottie Scheffler (4-1) and Rory McIlroy (10-1), the only players below 16-1. Four of the last five Masters champions were priced at 16/1or lower, Matsuyama at 45/1 in 2021 being the exception. Americans have won 6 of the last 10 Masters and of course Scheffler is a short price following back-to-back wins at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Players Championship. With him at 4-1 taking out a big slug of the market, this looks a decent year to find a value alternative or two.

As well as Rahm the field will contain another 12 LIV golfers and there’s potentially an argument that these guys will be less competitive than their pedigree suggests with an absence of truly competitive golf in the recent past. More broadly a limited 80 strong field containing former Champions, amateurs and debutants represents one of the primary betting attractions of the event with so many players being unlikely winners. Only a quarter of the field, or 20 players, are priced 50/1 or below in the market.

Over about a decade of Neil covering the event with my free tips alongside the recipe for success at Augusta has been mentioned many times. A quick summary for this year: Drive the ball a long way and make putts would be the one-liner. This year the yardage has crept up to 7,555 with a change to the second hole. The course plays longer though, effectively around 7,900 yards as the fairways are mown towards the tees to minimise driving “run”.

The three metrics from the 2024 PGA statistics I look at each year to determine a short-list from are as follows:

Strokes Gained off the tee.

Strokes Gained Putting.

Distance to Apex.

The latter is a proxy for power hitting, and every winner since 2008 has been in the top 35% in terms of power hitting on Tour.

Add to this a desire to avoid favourite-longshot bias when going too far down the market and there’s actually only a list of 25-30 golfers in the field to perm from.

There is also a recent form filter to apply. Since 2011, Matsuyama aside, in-form players have dominated with Adam Scott in 2013 being the only player to feature with as little as a single top-10 in the calendar year prior to the Masters.

With a nod to Tony Finau (past a long look at Schauffele and Aberg), who seemed to be returning to driving form recently in Houston and is 7th on the Distance to Apex stat, is 33/1 and just missed the selection cut here because of a poor putting stat (157th) the two I will put up against the field are as follows:

Firstly Sam Burns at 50-1. Burns was as high as 9th in the PWGR after his runoff four top tens earlier in the year, now 21st. Until a recent missed cut at the Valspar Burns was top 20 on the USPGA in strokes gained off the tee and strokes gained putting now he’s 23rd and 24th overall, and 29th (of 183) in distance to apex. Two previous appearances in the Masters, tied 29th last year after missing the cut on his debut. A player with a nice combination of long hitting and putting, with the slight concern that his best run of form was a couple of months ago.

Secondly Wyndham Clark at 25-1 who has a US Open and two PGA Tour signature titles in the last nine months, plus second places to Scheffler at both Bay Hill and Sawgrass as he’s developed into a Koepka-like big hitter in the last year.

First things first, it’s his debut at the age of 30, and the last debutant winner of the Masters was Zoeller in 1979, though Speith came close, 2nd in his 2014 debut. There’s also his natural shot shape, a left to right move which is against what most of the Masters longer holes ideally required.

However his stats can’t be ignored. Clark is 22nd in strokes gained off the tee this season, and 12th in strokes gained putting, 3rd overall in strokes gained. On the distance to apex stat he’s as high as 5th at 206 yards.

I am going to suggest both players, but of course I am writing early before this weekend’s event in San Antonio, any firm view on the weather next week and before the draw and most relevantly before any bookmaker marketing departments set about (we hope) offering more each-way places for the Masters, which will be in place as Neil publishes next Wednesday. I am going with the firms offering more places (compared to five places ¼) in these recommendations:

10 Points each way Sam Burns to win the Masters at 50-1. 1/5 Six places with Betfred, Coral/Ladbrokes and William Hill

8 Points each way Wyndham Clark to win the Masters at 28-1. 1/5 Six places with Betfred, 25/1 same terms with Coral/Ladbrokes and William Hill


Winds of Change

A new English county cricket season has just begun with the first round of County Championship matches underway. Off the pitch, major change is being considered as the domestic game grapples with the demands of franchise cricket worldwide on player availability and the effects of the Hundred through each August on what is now a schedule that contains one too many competitions to operate effectively.

Amongst the possibilities that await in the years to come are the loss of several of the smaller counties and an exodus of leading players to America's Major League Cricket that runs concurrent with the peak of the English summer. Meanwhile talks continue about the future of The Hundred ahead of changes for the 2025 season.

It is possible that the competition stays at eight teams, or increases to 10, 12 or even 18. A third London team is a distinct possibility too.

Both formally via the Strauss review and informally in the media former England captains Andrew Strauss and Michael Vaughan have argued for a reduction in elite domestic teams. Vaughans suggested in an interview taking 'the 12 best teams in the country and putting them in two divisions for 'top-flight cricket', while the former called for 10 franchise sides playing the best cricket, rather than the 18 first-class counties.

The counties rejected Strauss's suggestions for changes to the Championship in his High Performance Review, which was published in September 2022, including a reduction to 10 rounds from the current 14.

The Hundred has been successful with the broadcasters. It's also liked by the players, it's been good for women's cricket, and it's brought in a new audience but faces a new threat from America and more players could follow Jason Roy to the US, leaving the Blast halfway through. The IPL, MLC and CPL are all backed by Indian money so there is a lot of competition for the best players.

Elsehwere the 50 over competition that currently runs alongside the Hundred faces an uncertain future, almost certainly has to move in the calendar and may disappear altogether.

Those non-Test-staging counties that make it into a potential 12 team County Championship would be secure but the six counties left on the outside would face an uncertain future. They could resemble feeder clubs for a while but eventually may fall back to line up alongside the Minor Counties.

The alternative is to have an 18-team Hundred. This has been described as an eight-team 'English Premier League,' above a 10-team 'English Championship'. It is unlikely there would be promotion and relegation, certainly not until 2028 the year The Hundred is currently contracted to. Potential Indian and American investors do not want it so the English game faces a dilemma. Receive bigger sums from investors (likely from India), or a smaller amount from elsewhere but with promotion and relegation.

A lot of the above is difficult to stomach for fans who grew up with 18 counties playing County Championship and one-day competitions. County chiefs wanting less cricket for their own teams seems a curious concept.  With so many counties feeling the financial pinch, however, and a new TV deal on the way for post-2028, change led by the administrators is on the way.


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The Road to Riches Weekend of 30th-31st March.

Posted on 27 Mar 2024 17:16 in Weekly Articles "Road to Riches" by Rich 'Tighty' Prew

Coming up this weekend

  • Horse Racing, On the flat at Musselburgh, over the jumps at Carlisle, Haydock and Newton Abbot and on the all-weather at Wolverhampton.
  • Football, Premier League fixtures include Manchester City v Arsenal
  • Cricket, The IPL continues.
  • Golf, the Texas Open on the USPGA
  • Tennis, The US Clay Court Championships and ATP Estoril and Marrakech.

Aintree Grand National Festival (Full Package) 11th-13th April 2024

After a profitable Cheltenham we move on to the three day Aintree Grand National Festival.Available for £99 here

 


Free Tip

IPL LSG v Punjab 2pm Saturday

It’s the early stages of the tournament and a week in home sides have dominated the games winning each of the first seven contests.

Lucknow lost their first game at but in recent IPLs have had an advantage in attritional games at home on tricky surfaces. Here they face Punjab who beat Delhi at home then lost in Bengaluru.

Last season Punjab had one of the poorest death-over (overs 17-20 of the T20 innings) economy rates at over 11 runs per over, and there hasn’t been much improvement so far this year, conceding over 10 runs an over at the death to both of this year’s opponents. In the Bengaluru game, they chose not to bowl out Sam Curran in the final over, their big money overseas player who has been in disappointing form with the ball for nearly a year now.

I’d like to capitalise on that weakness here by looking at Lucknow’s death hitter Nicholas Pooran, rather than the traditional T20 top batsman market favourites which here would be the openers Rahul and de Kock, both priced at 2-1 or 5/2.

West Indian Pooran had an impressive 2023 IPL scoring 358 runs at a strike rate of 172 batting anywhere from 4 to 6. Performances included 62 off 19 balls against RCB, 44 off 13 balls against Sunrisers and 45 off 19 balls against Punjab Super Kings. In the first game of this year’s IPL he hit 64* off 41 balls.

Importantly, given Lucknow play on some slow and low surfaces, Pooran has power to spare. He’s hit 51 sixes in the IPL since 2022, good enough for top five in the category.

Pooran is available at 6/1 with firms who are live with early prices, more firms will be up in the Top Home batsman market before the weekend.

10 points Nicholas Pooran Top Lucknow batsman at 6/1 Betfair Sportsbook/Paddy Power, 5/1 Coral/Ladbrokes, more firms to follow


Reborn

A few weeks ago, in the middle of the Six Nations, England looked stuck. They began the tournament with a three point win, coming from behind in Rome, and then came back to beat Wales by two points having been 14-7 down after an hour at Twickenham. Then came the side’s nadir, a terrible error-strewn performance at Murrayfield conceding 30 points in a nine point loss with no less than 22 attacking handling errors. They were a team going nowhere, struggling to marry an aggressive new blitz defence with a non-existent attack. If they did have a playing identity it was hidden from view.

Then to end the Championship, out of nowhere beating the six Nation Champions Ireland at home and taking a France side that had stuck 53 point on them last year to the wire in Lyon to end the Championship. Whilst England came up short, both in that match and the championship itself, they so transformed their playing style that they are a side reborn for the Ireland win and narrow France defeat saw them not knocking over a fistful of penalties and playing turgidly from set-piece to set-piece but scoring tries. Seven of them.

A week after snatching victory against the Irish with a last gasp drop-goal, they got to know how Andy Farrell’s team felt, Thomas Ramos’ ice-cool penalty goal with almost the last kick a cruel end to the game for England.

It was like the World Cup semi-final all over again, when Handre Pollard struck from deep to snatch glory from England up the road in Paris. Only this was far more of a statement performance in terms of direction of travel. Against the Boks England were physical and obstinate and heroically defiant, but their game was all about containment. There was no sign of a try. Here what they may have lacked in accuracy and control they more than made up for in sheer daring. At times it was genuinely thrilling. They played with ambition, with joie de vivre. The straitjacket they wore through February was gone, replaced with an intent . Several of the tries were genuinely brilliany, but they ended the game cursing two butchered lineouts on their won throw which cost them two converted tries, ultimately the difference in the game.

With three months until they face Japan at the start of a tour which takes in two Tests against New Zealand tough tasks lie ahead. From where they were in Edinburgh, where they have been pretty much since 2020, the Ireland and France performances were much better. At the start of a four year World Cup cycle, with plenty of time to develop the attacking approach, develop younger players and get them into the team, suddenly the future looks a lot brighter no matter the challenges of a domestic game short of finance and competing for talent with richer leagues notably France.


StattoBets Dave Monthly Subscription - Soccer - Tennis - Darts

Stattobets write ups, analysis and bets are available to monthly subscribers.

Results as at 1st January 2024 = points bet 39142 profit +2170 ROI +5.45% Full details here

Monthly subs are £50 a month and can be cancelled at any time. You can sign up here


Betting Emporium results

The detailed results page has been updated on 1st January 2024. They can be found by clicking RESULTS

If you bet £10 per point on every recommended bet since launch you would be winning + £71,656 All bets have an ROI +2.97%

A £4000 bank betting £10 a point on all selections would now be worth £71,656 a 1691% increase 

 

The Road to Riches Weekend of 23rd-24th March.

Posted on 20 Mar 2024 09:50 in Weekly Articles "Road to Riches" by Rich 'Tighty' Prew

Coming up this weekend

  • Horse Racing, On the flat at Doncaster, over the jumps at Bangor-on-Dee and Newbury and on the all-weather at Newcastle and Wolverhampton.
  • Football, the International break including England friendlies against Brazil and Belgium.
  • Formula One, the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
  • Cricket, The IPL begins this weekend.
  • Golf, the Houston Open on the USPGA and the Indian Open on the DP World Tour.
  • Tennis, The ATP Miami Open continues.

Aintree Grand National Festival (Full Package) 11th-13th April 2024

After a profitable Cheltenham we move on to the three day Aintree Grand National Festival.Available for £99 here

 


Free Tip

The 2024 IPL

The 2024 IPL begins on Friday with the Chennai Super Kings hosting Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Only the first 21 fixtures (up until Sunday, April 7) have been announced, with the BCCI waiting for confirmation of when India's general election will take place before revealing the rest of the schedule. The final is expected to take place on May 26th

This is the IPL’s 17th year and last year CSK won, rebounding from a disappointing 2022 as 10-1 outsiders beating then defending champions Gujarat Titans in the final. CSK and Mumbai Indians are the winning-most franchises with five titles each.

Again, this year each team will play 14 matches during the group stage, with the top four teams advancing to the playoffs. The first and second-placed teams will meet in Qualifier 1, with the winner progressing directly to the final. The loser will drop into Qualifier 2, where they will face the winner of the Eliminator (third versus fourth) for a spot in the final.

Outright odds for the 2024 tournament are as follows:

Mumbai 4-1

CSK 5-1

Gujurat 7-1

Rajasthan 8-1

RCB 8-1

Lucknow 9-1

Sunrisers 9-1

Delhi 12-1

Punjab Kings 14-1

KKR 14-1

No real issues with the three teams at the head of the market, they should be the favourites to win (I prefer Mumbai and Gujurat to CSK this time round at the prices) but as last year when this column was on the winner at 10-1 I am searching for some value.

I alighted on three possibilities at the prices, Sunrisers Hyderabad, Punjab Kings and Lucknow Super Giants. Looking at those in turn:

Last year Sunrisers finished bottom for the second time in three years with only four wins from 14 matches. This time round after the team was refashioned in last December’s auction their batting line up looks powerful. Travis Head, Heinrich Klaasen, Glenn Phillips and Aiden Markram can’t all play (teams limited to four overseas players in line ups) though and the big question is whether the bowling line up will perform more consistently. Lat year Sunrisers’ bowling attack had the worst strike rate and second worst average. Recruiting Pat Cummins as captain and strike bowler is the main attempt to address that, alongside Sri Lankan spinner Wanindu Hasaranga who averages under 20 in the format, but he might not get into the team with the overseas restrictions. I can see opponents targeting the bowling line up for big totals.

Punjab Kings finished 8th last season with six wins and one of the two outsiders this time round, despite having a big hitting batting line-up that topped 2023 strike rates and finished with the second highest composite batting average. Boom or bust players like Roussow and Livingstone alongside talented Indian hitters like Jitesh and Taide accompany a line up full of all-rounders meaning the team bats deep. They lack stability up top though, Shikar Dhawan the captain and opener is now a veteran and past his best.

Where they really suffered last year was in a bowling line-up that struggled to restrict sides, the death bowling overs saw Punjab Kings concede over 11 runs an over in 2023. The line-up this time round of Rabada, Curran, Woakes, Arshdeep and new recruit Harshal is supplemented by leg-spinner Chahar and it is the spin department in places like Chennai and Lucknow that could see them lacking.

That leaves the Lucknow Super Giants, a team in its third year of existence who finished third in the table in each of their first two years and fourth in each competition after early exists in the knockout stages.  LSG aren’t a fashionable side but are under-rated. Coached by Justin Langer, who is a renowned T20 strategist, data led, who led the Perth Scorchers to many years of success in the BBL often by zigging when the opposition was zagging.

The batting line-up sees Rahul and De Kock then the big hitter Pooran and Badoni with promising talent Kulkarni to follow. A well-balanced attack has Ayush Badoni who had the best strike rate in the 2023 IPL at a wicket every 9.5 balls and recruitment has seen David Willey and Ashton Turner arrive. Shamar Joseph, the West Indies hero of their recent win in Brisbane, is a fun punt replacing Mark Wood.

On their home track, Lucknow play to their strengths in grinding out results on tough surfaces. In seven World Cup matches there was only one first innings total above 260 and in the 2023 IPL scores averaged 160. The pitches tend to be slow and low and Langer’s tactics are often spot on in the conditions.

At the prices they are a solid prospect to go deep in the tournament again and to my mind the best value pick away from the big two at the head of the market..

10 points each way (1/2 1,2) Lucknow Super Giants to win the IPL at 10/1, Bet365 SkyBet, Betfair Sportsbook/Paddy Power 9/1 Betfred and Ladbrokes/Coral


The jury is out.

It’s no shame losing a five match Test series in India, despite the false dawn this time round of winning the first test in Hyderabad, but it was a series defined by multiple England missed opportunities and a lack of ruthlessness throughout

England have now failed to beat Australia at home and lost to India away in their last two series and this was the first series they've lost under McCullum and Stokes’ “Bazball” regime.

India's home record is daunting, they haven't lost a home series since 2012 and, since the start of 2013, have lost only four of 50 Tests.

England now have 18 Test matches until the away series in Australia for the 2025 Ashes. This summer England host Sri Lanka and the West Indies for three test matches each, they go to New Zealand in Winter 2024 and host India in summer 2025.

For the India series just finished the batting line-up underperformed against three world class spinners in Jadeja, Ashwin and Kuldeep and probably the best seamer in world cricket Bumrah. The big guns simply did not contribute significantly. Duckett, Pope and Root made one significant contribution each, Crawley scored four fifties but didn’t go onto make a hundred, Bairstow and stokes contributed little. England had three centurions in this series. Of Pope, Duckett and Root only Root went on to make another score of 50 or more in the series.

In the bowling line-up, the selections of the inexperienced spinners Hartley and Bashir were inspired punts. Hartley took 22 wickets, Bashir 17 though at averages of 36 and 33 respectively betraying the relative lack of control compared to the Indian trio.

In one sense it was surprising that England ran India so close in three of the games with their lead spinner Leach injured and very little seam support to Anderson, who took ten wickets in another solid outing. While England have a domestic schedule that renders it tough for spinners to develop, it is going to remain desperately tough for them to win in India.

Looking ahead to next summer it perhaps helps that Anderson has now taken 700 test wickets and Bairstow has 100 caps as there are probably decisions coming on both players.

Behind the stumps, will either Foakes or Bairstow play in the next Ashes series? Bairstow will be 37 by then. He is a high-impact batsman but a keeper who dropped key catches last summer. Foakes is a flawless keeper who bats in one gear. The ideal for England is a keeper that is a blend of the two players a shot-playing batsman averaging 36-38 who does not drop many chances. Not easy to find.

In the batting order Brook will come back and there should be big scores to be had against both summer opponents. In India only Crawley averaged above 40 and Only two players averaged more than 30. There is an issue around vice captain Ollie Pope, a really bad starter of an innings at number 3 who would probably be best at four but Joe Root has that place sealed up. Root has scored six hundreds in the Bazball era, five of them unbeaten.

In the bowling attack we are about to see the post Broad and Anderson era. Perhaps now that won’t be led by Ollie Robinson but in Josh Tongue and Matthew Potts there are two players with potential.

Whether this side is ultimately competitive for the next Ashes is open to question.

Another question continues to concern the domestic system. The county game is compromised by short term financial goals which have resulted in a schedule which has oen competition too many and is sub-optimal, playing four day games in April and September. As a result, the gap between domestic and international cricket, especially international cricket played overseas, has grown and there is not much prospect of changing this in an era of white ball windows, ever more franchise T20 competitions and The Hundred competing for the top players.

England have gone well over a year without winning a (multi-match) Test or T20I series and were nowhere in the ODI World Cup. Whilst this summer should see some improvement the jury against the top sides is yet to deliver a positive verdict for this side or its Bazball approach.


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The Road to Riches Weekend of 16th-17th March.

Posted on 14 Mar 2024 12:02 in Weekly Articles "Road to Riches" by Rich 'Tighty' Prew

Coming up this weekend

  • Horse Racing, Over the jumps at Kempton, Newcastle and Uttoxeter and on the all-weather at Wolverhampton and Southwell.
  • Football, the FA Cup Quarter finals and four Premier League fixtures including West Ham v Aston Villa
  • Rugby Union. The final round of Six Nations Matches including Ireland v Scotland for the title.
  • Cricket, England’s test series in India concludes, the fifth test match in Dharamsala continues this weekend.
  • Golf, the Valspar Championship on the USPGA and the Singapore Classic on the DP World Tour.
  • Tennis, ATP Miami Open.

Free Tip

Six Nations Wales v Italy 2.45pm Saturday.

Last weekend was outside of a World Cup the best weekend of international rugby I’ve seen in a long time with two thrilling close underdog home victories from Italy and England and a 69 point game in Cardiff. The weekend overall saw 174 points and 20 tries scored in three games.

Now for the final weekend, where each game has something riding on it including the Cardiff game between Wales and Italy, where this column has an ongoing bet placed earlier in the tournament on Wales to finish bottom of the Six Nations at 4/1.

The current situation sees Italy in fifth on seven points with one draw in France, last weekend’s win against Scotland and one bonus point and a point difference of -37.

Wales are on three points with no wins, three bonus points and a point difference of -48, and have conceded 14 tries in this Championship. A first Six Nations whitewash since 2003 is a possibility

Italy last finished fifth in 2015 and have picked up the Wooden Spoon eight times in a row, and before this season only had one win in those eight years, in Cardiff two years ago with the famous late Capuozzo try from the half-way line.

We know, a few months after the World Cup, that Wales are in a full rebuild, introducing young players and grappling with a domestic game with the regions in financial crisis. A whole squad full of young and promising players is being pushed through the system far faster than would be ideal. With Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric, Josh Navidi, Rhys Webb, Dan Biggar, Leigh Halfpenny and now George North departing the scene it really has been the end of an era for Welsh rugby over the past 12 months.

The callowness of this Welsh team has been well-documented throughout the Six Nations, but Gatland’s final team sheet is another stark reminder.

There are 577 Test caps in the starting XV, 457 if you exclude North; an average of 38 caps per player. However, on the bench, that average plummets to just nine. Rowlands and Kieran Hardy contribute more than half of the 72 caps on the bench, 52 in total. In fact, only one other player has double digits. The three front row replacements have two caps between them.

Teams often go through a rebuild after a Rugby World Cup, but for Wales and Gatland, this is a far bigger task, as there isn’t even a foundation to start from. At least wth Tompkins and North back in the centre for this game the team has a more muscular look.

Italy meanwhile, with years of investment behind them into academies, are emerging from that long, long rebuild.

The fruits of that can be seen in four areas:

  1. Benetton and Zebre are competitive in the URC.
  2. The Italy U20 team is winning , they beat France away and Scotland at home this year and came within a point of winning in Ireland
  3. The national side under new coaching drew in France (albeit against 14 men), beat Scotland and came within 3 points of beating England.
  4. The squad has depth, with the likes of qualification players Ross Vintcent (South African born, Exeter Chiefs) and Louis Lynagh (son of Australian great Michael, recently of Harlequins) augmenting a young squad for this championship onwards.

Gone, it seems, are the days when Italy would compete for 60 minutes and then fall away in the last 20 with poor bench strength leaving them vulnerable late in games.

Yet despite these two teams being at different spots in their cycles odds for this match are Wales 1/3, Italy 11/4 and +8 on the handicap.

For Wales there are some bright spots in terms of individual talent, notably in the back row where Tommy Reffell and Aaron Wainwright have stood out in this Championship. There is also potential out wide and this of course is a completely different challenge to that offered by France last- weekend where a huge team offered a physical confrontation that Wales simply couldn’t match. Here Wales have a decent chance of parity up-front and in what could be an open high-scoring game of getting the win and potentially avoiding the wooden spoon.

However Italy have routes to avoiding finishing sixth (which would be a sign of huge progress after so many years at the foot of the table) that don’t rely on getting the win. A bonus point for scoring four tries would help, as would losing by seven points or less. Which is why I am surprised to see the handicap line as high as +8. Home advantage for sure accounts for Wales being favourites, but I couldn’t have them two score favourites here.

22 points Italy +8 at Evens Bet365, 10/11 generally


Jaguares

Six months after the Argentina rugby president revealed the Jaguares had been invited to return to Super Rugby in 2026, Super Rugby officials could re-introduce the South Americans back into the competition as early as next year if the Melbourne Rebels cease to exist.

The Jaguares made the final of the competition in 2019 before leaving the competition during the Covid pandemic due to restraints on international travel. New Zealand Rugby and Rugby Australia are fearful that the removal of a Super Rugby side could lead to a reduction in broadcast funding.

Just who would run out for the Jaguares remains to be seen, with players unlikely to have to return to the Super Rugby side to be eligible for the national team like they were ahead of the 2019 World Cup. Most likely the franchise would follow a similar path to the Fiji Drua, which offers local players the opportunity stay at home rather than having to head overseas to earn a living.

The Rebels fell into voluntary administration late last month and are looking for a white knight help them out of a $22m shortfall after being given a 60-day reprieve by the Federal Court. As it stands the side is likely to cease to exist at the end of the season.

Adding to the sense of urgency around a quick decision with the Rebels is that broadcast negotiations are set to heat up over the coming months, with the current deal to finish at the end of 2025. There are different conversations with South American; North American and Japanese interested parties. However while the Jaguares were one of the success stories of Super Rugby before their abrupt departure, the chopping and changing of the competition, which expanded to 18 franchises and played across four continents in 2016 before returning to 15 sides in 2018, made it difficult for the public to come to terms with the competition’s constantly changing format.


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Betting Emporium results

The detailed results page has been updated on 1st January 2024. They can be found by clicking RESULTS

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