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Cricket: New Zealand v England 1st Test Preview

English cricket fans are desperate for some good news.  Their National cricket team is without a coach, is embroiled in a long-winding and tiresome war of words with Kevin Pieterson, and suffered an embarrassing recent loss to a West Indies team their new Chairman Colin Graves labelled ‘mediocre’.  Thus the fans need a distraction that can only be delivered in the form of a test and series win against New Zealand.

Their New Zealand opponents are on an upward curve.  After a promising home series against Sri Lanka and a World Cup campaign that set the nation alight, New Zealand have moved to third in the test rankings and will no longer fly under any world cricket radar.

The opening bowling pair of Tim Southee and Trent Boult is arguable the strongest facet of their game, but with Kane Williamson, and Brendon McCullum in the middle order, runs might not be a problem for the first time in an away Northern Hemisphere tour.

They have concerns over the form of Ross Taylor (he’s failed to get past 32 in four warmup innings thus far), and their preparation has been slightly scuppered by the late arrival of IPL stars.  But they should still be competitive throughout.

The Last Time These Two Met

The Black Caps were pretty ropey the last time they played in England.  In a test series immediately after a drawn series in New Zealand, the tourists fell to two hefty defeats at Lords and Hedgingly.  The most disappointing aspect of the tour was the final innings effort at Lords where New Zealand fell over for 68 when chasing 239 for the win – perhaps the Lords slope will be cause for concern for the batsman again.  New Zealand’s bowling was on song for most of the series, however their batsman let them down badly.

Of more recent form, New Zealand beat Sri Lanka at home in their most recent series, while the English tied a series in the West Indies – much to the disappointed of their fans.

The Teams

England (likely): 1 Alastair Cook (capt), 2 Adam Lyth, 3 Gary Ballance, 4 Ian Bell, 5 Joe Root, 6 Moeen Ali, 7 Ben Stokes, 8 Jos Buttler (wk), 9 Mark Wood, 10 Stuart Broad, 11 James Anderson

Adam Lyth and Mark Wood are expected to debut in the series opener.

New Zealand (likely): 1 Tom Latham, 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Kane Williamson, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Brendon McCullum (capt), 6 Corey Anderson, 7 BJ Watling (wk), 8 Mark Craig, 9 Matt Henry, 10 Tim Southee, 11 Trent Boult

As is Matt Henry for New Zealand.

The Key Players

James Anderson – Some have already labelled the series a battle between New Zealand and Anderson.  England’s one true match-winner simply gets the job done series after series.  He is deadly at home too and, after having worked himself into some form at the end of the West Indies series, shapes as the key foil to a New Zealand series win.

Kane Williamson – Don’t be fooled by New Zealand’s climb to third in the test match rankings or their dream run to the World Cup Final in April, their batsman will struggle in England.  The ball will swing and the ball will seam, and England have to bowlers to exploit both.  That puts the onus on the techniques of the New Zealand batsman and there are none better than Williamson.  Williamson’s straight bat is the best defence to the moving ball and with plenty of English conditions experience with Yorkshire should be able to improve on his modest record in England.  Expect a big series from the little man.

The Match Odds*

England – $2.32

New Zealand – $2.80

Draw – $2.95

*Courtesy of Sportsbet Australia.

The Prediction

Great odds all round if you’re confident which way this one will go.  Always factor in the rain in English hosted test matches but also consider the movement on offer could equate to a lot of wickets falling early in the test (only two of the past 8 test have been drawn at Lords).  So we’re thinking result, and we’ll go with England courtesy of their superior home record.

The Best Bets

BJ Watling to top score at $10.00 is sensational money.  In great nick in the warm up games, and barring any spectacular collapses won’t face a new ball until the second is on offer and he’s well settled.

Matt Henry is likely to grab the third seamer spot and he might just surprise a few people.  More into the pitch then Boult and Southee he may enjoy bowling into the slope.  He’s at $4.33 to lead the wicket-takers in the 1st Innings.

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