New Zealand v England First Test Betting: Batsmen face tough task

England's Ben Stokes
Stokes might not be able to bowl

Ed Hawkins previews game one from Auckland and expects the conditions in the day-night Test to prove crucial from Thursday...

"The weather forecast is not particularly special. But does that help our lay? Possibly. Overcast skies and moisture in the air should make those pacers even more lethal"

New Zealand v England
Thursday 22 March 01.00
TV: live on Sky Sports

Kiwis rely on Williamson and Taylor

New Zealand are more renowned for their grit as a one-day unit, particularly at home. That's not surprising because they play little Test cricket - it doesn't cover the bills. When they do, they are more than competitive, winning 13 of their last 31 and losing only three.

West Indies, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka (twice) and, notably, India have all been vanquished to nil since 2014. The three losses came against Australia (two) and South Africa, resulting in series defeats.

So we expect New Zealand to give England a tough time, largely because their pace attack is mightily impressive. Read our series preview here to hear about the strengths of Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner.

With the bat Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor are their gun players. One of those is two is going to have dig in for this game one would have thought. Tom Latham and Jeet Raval should be able to offer reasonable support.

They have lost Mitchell Santner to injury. Todd Astle is expected to provide the spin option.

England sweat on Stokes

England have been sweating on the fitness of all-rounder Ben Stokes. He has suffered from a sore back and required an injection in Hamilton. His health will determine the balance of the team.

There is no doubt that Stokes will play. It's just working out how fit he will be to play a full role as the fourth seamer. If he is struggling then an extra bowler will be required. Craig Overton or Chris Woakes could join James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Mark Wood.

That would mean Stokes batting at No 5 and a batter missing out, probably James Vince. Given his efforts in the Ashes Vince is unlikely to be a big miss.

Pleasingly for England Joe Root notched a century in a warm-up. We are expecting him to bat with more freedom following the travails of the Ashes. Alastair Cook and Mark Stoneman found moderate form.

Lay of first dig runs could be wise

New Zealand were beaten in Adelaide by Australia in the first day-night Test. There have been seven more since but this will the first on their home soil. Six of the eight have been won by the team batting first.

England's experience consists of a win over West Indies and a defeat (again at Adelaide). The latter showed how tricky these games can be to call because it all depends on the overhead conditions when you do, and do not, get hold of the new ball.

Past scorecards don't offer us much assistance in trying to work out what the pitch will do as at Eden Park as there have been only two Tests since 2013 - a draw against England and a win for the hosts against India four years ago.

In the domestic first-class tournament bowlers have hold sway at the venue. There has been one high score of 524 but in 14 other innings 300 has been breached only twice. Laying either team for 350 or more in the first dig could pay off.

Draw lay catches eye on match odds

New Zealand are 3.259/4 for the win with England 2.77/4 and the draw 3.02/1. Our first impression of those odds is that the stalemate looks a lay.

That is largely because of the lack of run-making domestically and the impression that these are two teams who are much stronger with the ball than the bat. There has yet to be a draw under lights also.

Say what you like about James Anderson and Stuart Broad in Australian conditions but when it is seaming and swinging they can raze teams before you know it. And, as we have said, we are mightily impressed by the Kiwi pace trio.

The weather forecast is not particularly special. But does that help our lay? Possibly. Overcast skies and moisture in the air should make those pacers even more lethal.

Watling value for top Kiwi bat

Williamson will be all the rage at 3.55 for top New Zealand runscorer in the first-innings. And why not? He is New Zealand's most successful bat in the last few years and their top-ranked player. But we must point out that Taylor, following eye surgery, is rejuvenated. He gets a 4.84/1 quote. We are mindful that if the ball is doing tricks the top order could be blown away so BJ Watling at 11.010/1 really catches the eye.

Watch out for Bairstow and Mo

Root is 3.8514/5 for top England bat and it is arguable that he has little to beat. Dawid Malan, who was superb in the Ashes, might say otherwise. He is 7.613/2 and that looks generous indeed. Keep an eye out for big numbers on Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali. The rationale is the same as the Watling wager.

Ed Hawkins P-L

2018: +12.59
2017: +12pts
2016: +18.1pts
2015: +38pts
2014: +31.5pts
2013: +25pts
Based only on available prices. Does not include back-to-lay in-running match advice or commission rate. Figures 2013-2016 on 1pt level stakes. New points system (0.5pt-5) introduced for 2017. Includes Hawk-Eye stats column p-l

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