England v New Zealand
Thursday 23 June, 11:00
TV: live on Sky Sports
England's preparations have been disrupted by an illness for Ben Stokes. The captain missed training on Tuesday, serving a reminder that he has not yet selected a vice-captain.
Stokes should be fit, although the spectre of Covid looms large because it has been working its way through the New Zealand camp. If Stokes were to miss out England would either pick the extra batter in Harry Brook or both Overton brothers could play.
Jamie Overton appears to be favourite to play regardless with talk of James Anderson sitting out. With the must-win Test against India starting on July 1, England may wisely rest their talisman.
Possible XI: Lees, Crawley, Pope, Root, Bairstow, Stokes, Foakes, Potts, Leach, Broad, J Overton
Kiwis wait on Conway
Nothing is going right for New Zealand. Devon Conway and Michael Bracewell have been in isolation with Covid and could be considered doubtful. Kyle Jamieson is out with a back injury.
One piece of good news is that skip Kane Williamson should return after missing the Trent Bridge defeat because of Covid. If Conway is out, Hamish Rutherford may come in. Bracewell was probably unlikely to be picked after England's batters took a liking to his spin.
With the ball, Neil Wagner should replace Jamieson. That should give them some extra bounce. Blair Tickner or AJaz Patel, the spinner, could replace Matt Henry.
Possible XI: Latham, Young, Conway, Williamson, Nicholls, Mitchell, Blundell, Southee, Boult, Wagner, Patel
When it comes to Headingley, look up. If the sun is out, expect runs. if it isn't, the bowlers are bang in the game. India were bowled out for 78 in first innings last summer. Six of the last nine first digs have been under 260.
So the forecast is key. Days one and two are currently, according to the Met Office, expected to be cloudy starts. If we get the chance to go under 290 on the runs par line we'll take it so long as we look up first. Check the runs lines here.
The pitch does get better as the match progresses. In the last 10 years the average runs per wicket in the third and fourth is 34 and 32 respectively compared to 26 and 29 in the first and second.
Draw looks short
England are, of course, buzzing. Their success at Trent Bridge was extraordinary and is likely to define how they play under the Stokes-McCulllum axis.
It will rarely be dull. It won't work all the time. But the main take for punters is to have tremendous confidence that England will play for a result, whether that be going after or setting the targets.
First up, the draw looks skinny at 3.211/5. Pre-toss it look a lay, although we would be surprised if it didn't come shorter over the five days.
England are 2.26/5 and New Zealand 4.3100/30. Ordinarily at those odds, we'd laugh off an England wager. But form isn't everything in Test cricket and a dishevelled, low-confidence New Zealand look a long way from the world champs. Bet the match odds here
Sure, Jonny Bairstow produced the innings of his life but New Zealand fed him hooks and pulls. They played brainless cricket. At key times in the series they have wilted and it is hard to have confidence they can finish the job if they get into another winning position.
Joe Root and Williamson are the subject of Sportsbook's boosted odds for top-bat honours for their teams in the first-innings. Root is 16/5 and Williamson 3/1.
Ollie Pope, who solidified his place in the team with a ton at TB, has taken a big cut to 7/2 while Bairstow is 9/2. Daryll Mitchell, who England just can't get out, is 5/1 for another top-bat effort.
With the ball, Sportsbook have been unable to split Stuart Broad and Anderson for top England wicket-taker in the first dig at 2/1. With the venue's reputation for swing, we make Anderson clear jolly. Tim Southee is 11/4 for Kiwi honours and should be favourite also. Bet the Sportsbook markets here.
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