Stars could be in line for an upset

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Tshwane Spartans v Jozi Stars
Thursday 5 December, 15:30
Live on BT Sport 3

Spartan Spartans

Tshwane Spartans' ability is becoming clearer as they start to rack up completed matches. Three wins and two defeats now after a loss – a heavy one too – to Nelson Mandela Bay Giants last time out.

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The Spartans may or may not be grateful for the spate of washouts at the start of the tournament. Before Wednesday's match they were hanging on to third spot but the six-wicket loss to Giants was more evidence that they are being overrated.

We don't mind what they can do with the bat, even if AB De Villiers is carrying them somewhat. The issue is with the ball. Sure, they have pace aces in Morne Morkel, Tom Curran and Lungi Ngidi but where is the variance and spin skill to break up a partnership on a good wicket?

Dean Elgar is a doubt for Spartans. Listed in the squad for the Giants game he did not make the XI. Tony de Zorzi deputised and was not at all shabby in the opening berth.

Possible XI De Zorzi, Mulder, De Villiers, Klaasen, van Biljon, Van der Merwe, Curran, Bosh, Morkel, Ngidi, Salamkheil

Stars might get better

Jozi Stars have now lost seven in a row. An extraordinary record for the defending champions. Despite the sequence, there is evidence they are getting better.

Against Paarl Rocks they produced a strong batting performance. They had to start sometime. It came after Chris Gayle departed and that might not be a coincidence. The balance of the batting XI now looks much better with the introduction of Shoaib Malik into the middle order, taking pressure off those ahead of him.

Malik should also add needed nous with the ball. It's hard not to reckon there's much wrong with the talent, though, in this regard. Kagiso Rabada and Duane Olivier are a terrific quick pair and Aaron Phangiso is a consistently mean (economy lower than seven over his career) spinner. Sure, there's a worry about the fifth and sixth bowling options but they should start to be more competitive.

Possible XI Hendricks, Rickelton, Bavuma, Van der Dussen, Malik, Christian, Qeshile, Rabada, Williams, Phangiso, Olivier

Not super for batters

SuperSport Park was once again tricky for batters as Paarl Rocks could only post 126. Before that match the average was 157. One in the last five first innings has busted more than 150. It's a bowl first wicket, then, with more than 60% of matches won by the chaser.

Risk Jozi

We've been quite down on the Spartans, largely because we believe AB De Villiers' presence means they are artificially short. No T20 team can be powered by one man, particularly one which seems to lack genuine international spin class. Think Imran Tahir, Tabraiz Shamsi.

So the [1.59] about the hosts doesn't float our boat, particularly with the massive toss bias. Betting them at those odds now is the definition of a mug wager. With the Stars chasing, we can see hope that they can trade short and will book a price at [1.80].

De Villiers might be taken on

Only Farhaan Behardien and Albie Morkel have scored more T20 runs at the venue than Ab De Villiers. AB is the ubiquitous top-bat jolly at 2/1 but Elgar will always appeal at 16/5, not least because, if he plays, he is guaranteed to open the batting and enjoy the freescoring benefits that brings. There's also not the insignificant fact that Elgar has a superior average to AB at SuperSport Park – his 47 trumping 37. That's quite a difference. Sportsbook offer 5/4 about Elgar scoring more than 21.5 runs. That's a winner ten times in his last 19.

For Stars, Hendricks is the correct favourite at 21/10, although bear in mind he was the man who led the charge against Rocks last time with a fine half-century to take honours. We like the look of Malik at 4/1, beavering away in the engine room.

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