New Zealnd v England
Start time: 08.00GMT
TV: live on Sky Sports 1
Much of the attention in the build-up to this series has centred on Ross Taylor's difficulties with coach, Mike Hesson and the captain, Brendon McCullum. Taylor turned down the captaincy in Tests because he and the coach did not see eye to eye. The handover to Super Mac was nost too cosy. But Taylor is in the squad for this series and they need his quality desperately. Taylor strengthens a decent batting line-up but it is the ball where the Kiwis suffer. Doug Bracewell and Tim Southee, two of the three top wicket-takers in the last two years, are not involved.
By contrast England are bristling with firepower. Jade Dernbach - although profilgate in India - has 20 wickets in the last two years in this format, making him the fourth most dangerous bowler in the world. At No 5 is Steven Finn. But it is a young and green squad. James Tredwell and Michael Lumb are the only players aged over 30. Stuart Broad leads the side and Jos Buttler keeps wicket. Of course, the more well-known England faces of James Anderson, Graeme Swann, Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen are not involved.
There is a big disparity in odds for this series. England are as short as [1.69] to take honours with New Zealand [2.30]. The draw is [7.00]. That is a big gulf and we are not sure whether that is justified considering both sides are blooding youngsters. The balance of power lies with the NcCullum-Taylor-Guptill axis. Their experienece and know-how with the bat could swing it in the home side's favour. Admittedly New Zealand have won only one from the last seven and have a win percentage of 44 in the last two years. England rate 55 per cent.
First T20 match odds
A bit closer in this market. England are [1.82] and the Kiwis [2.20]. We have no doubt that New Zealand are a back-to-lay if they can bat first. That is their strength. However, we would expect England to shorten if they get first digs because of the weak bowling attack they face and the young tyros doing the hitting. England should have no fears whether setting a target but they may come unstuck on a chase. That is if Nathan McCullum, New Zealand's best bowler available, and Ronnie Hira can tie them in knots with turn.
The first-innings average score at Eden Park in eight matches is 158. With New Zealand strong in batting but weak in bowling, it would be wise to wager for more than 150 to be breached whoever bats first. Certainly England have scored nicely in the warm-ups, albeit winning one from two. There is no toss bias to speak of, although it is a quirk that two of the matches have finished in ties. The weather is set fair.
Top New Zealand runscorer
McCullum is considered a class act in this format and rightly so considering he has a strike rate of 143 in the last two years. He also has more runs than any other Kiwi at 604. But Martin Guptill has 579 in two fewer atches, has a better average and only slightly inferior strike rate.
Top England runscorer
Lumb and Alex Hales are set to open the batting for England with Luke Wright at No 3. But look out for Eoin Morgan and Buttler in the engine room at Nos 5 and 6. They have been in great touch and they were striking at 182 and 164 respectively as they both hit 50s in defeat by a representative XI last time out.
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