New Zealand v England
Thursday 16 February, 01:00
TV: Live on Sky Sports
Perfect conditions for home skip
If one could pick a situation for Tim Southee to return to his most destructive swing-bowling form, it might be the first Test at Mount Maunganui.
It's a day-night Test, with a pink ball, moist conditions, a potentially green pitch (if early snaps of the surface are anything to go by) and he is attack leader with Trent Boult missing. There's no Matt Henry, a dangerous bowler of bend himself, or the admirable Kyle Jamieson.
Now all we need is the right price for him to be top Kiwi bowler in the first dig. Sportsbook have obliged in comparison to our study period. They go 5/2, rating him a 28.6% chance. He has ten wins in his last 31, a hit rate of 32.2%.
Southee has a decent record with the pink ball. He has 15 wickets in three matches. Only Boult has more wickets (in one less game) so we cannot over-emphasise how him important his absence is.
Still, we do have to be wary of Neil Wagner. Wagner has a better record in terms of strike rate and average at the venue but we're hoping the swinging pink ball keeps Southee keen.
Wagner is more of a battering ram and likes to dig it in to Test batters' defences on the back foot. He is a quality bowler but this might not be a surface which requies suce brute force.
NZ top bowler wins/matches
Southee 10 2t/31
Wagner 7 2t/30
Take a chance on lower order
There's rare value on top Kiwi bat. Kane Williamson is usually overrated but Sportsbook 5/2 provides an edge on win rate of just shy of two percentage points.
Still, it's not the biggest chunk available of the top-order batters. Two-and-a-half is given up on Henry Nicholls at 7/1. Nicholls has a solid record against England. But what do we do about Daryl Mitchell at the same price with the same win rate over a much shorter study period?
It is a very tempting wager considering his recent run glut against this very England attack. He is also more protected from the new ball. Perhaps the answer is to swerve them all and plump for Southee at 100s. He shouldn't be as big on ability or conditions.
Alas there's a dearth of value on top England bat with the gravy train on Ollie Pope at big prices derailed now he's been shortened to 4s.
NZ top batsman wins/matches
England top batsman wins/matches