New Zealand v England
Thursday 28 November 22:00 GMT
Live on Sky Sports
Kiwis so assured
New Zealand produced exactly the sort of performance in the first Test one would have expected from a team ranked No 2 in the world and one which had been victorious of 10 of its last 12 home series. They taught England a lesson.
It is one which England may need time to heed. The Kiwis are in such a strong position because their XI is settled and each and every one of their players know their roles and are comfortable. They are not asked to pull off skills or jobs with which they are not comfortable. The likes of BJ Watling, double centurion, and Mitchell Santner, nagging spinner, are not going to win big endorsement deals but they are proper Test players.
They can even afford the loss of Trent Boult, who has a niggle. Lockie Ferguson is a high-quality replacement, who can get it down at a rate of knocks and move the ball. Colin de Grandhomme is out with Daryl Mitchell stepping in for a debut.
Possible XI Raval, Latham, Williamson, Taylor, Nicholls, BJ Watling, Mitchell, Santner, Southee, Ferguson, Wagner
The innings and 65-run loss in Mount Manganui would have hurt Chris Silverwood, the new coach, in his first game. Joe Root, too. The pair are looking to rebuild ahead of the Ashes in two years and if there was any doubt about the size of the task facing them, well, there isn't now.
Is it all doom and gloom? Probably not in terms of debutant Dom Sibley. He needs time to feel at home. Ollie Pope, despite previous Test experience, is also a greenhorn. England have to keep picking them for fear of the damage a revolving door selection policy will cause. They will just keep going round and round in circles.
There are worrying signs with regard to Jofra Archer, however. The thinly-veiled media criticism at England's most potent bowler before the disgusting racism he suffered, suggests Archer is going to have a very tumultuous career indeed. If there are going to be questions about body language, analysis of his speeds and his relationship with his skip every time he has a quiet game, he will be mentally shot before Joe Root can bowl him into the ground
Probable XI Burns, Sibley, Denly, Root, Stokes, Pope, Buttler, S Curran, Archer, Broad, Leach.
Strong at home
There have been ten Test at Seddon Park since 2010. The first-innings scores (1-2 denote match won by side batting first-second, most recent first) read: 234-2/373-1/314-d/271-1/292-2/367-2/185-2/275-2/231-1/553-1. There's no toss trend to get excited about. The only semblance of a pattern is New Zealand's strong showing, winning six of those Tests. The venue is fast-scoring, if not high scoring. The run rate during the study period is just shy of 3.5 an over. Expect things to rattle along.
Kiwis look big
New Zealand are steadfastly refusing to go odds-on, despite game one providing plenty of evidence they are on a different plane to England at present. The 2.427/5 looks a big price indeed. The visitors are only marginally bigger at 2.707/4 with the draw short at 4.3100/30, possibly because of an overreaction to some rain forecast.
We're happy to be on the Kiwis at such odds. Continuity and confidence should trump naivety and negativity. England are an 'if' team at the moment. If they suddenly find a way to bat time. If Archer produces something devastating. If the pressure on Root has not become all-consuming. And on that note, check out Cricket...Only Bettor this week for superb analysis by former Kiwi pacer Iain O'Brien.
Williamson to the fore
Kane Williamson is 4/1 with Betfair Sportsbook for a first-innings century on his home ground. As if Williamson needs any more assistance to be cooler than cucumber, he's notched three figures three times in eight in familiar surroundings. On home form in the last five years, Williamson is a touch bigger on our odds to cop (about 9/2). If that puts you off, Williamson is 6/5 for a first dig fifty. Having increased his average by six runs under his own stewardship, Williamson thrives on pressure and with that filter applied he should be odds on. Also, in the last five years at home he's a winner on the market at a rate of an even money shot.