Australia v New Zealand
Wednesday 12 June, 10:30 BST
Live on Sky Sports 1
This is a must-win game for Australia. After losing their opening game to England, defeat against their closest rivals will see the defending champions eliminated at the group stage. Their big concern remains the fitness of captain Michael Clarke, who missed the game on Saturday with a recurrence of the back problems which kept him out of the Indian Premier League. Whilst they would like to have him back for such an important match, it seems unlikely that he would be risked if he is not totally fit, bearing in mind that there is now less than a month before the start of the Ashes.
The Australian camp will have noted the success of the English and Pakistani spinners in the previous games on this Edgbaston pitch and may well bring in Glenn Maxwell in place of the ineffective Mitchell Marsh. The lack of a slow bowler was what cost them dear on Saturday, in a game in which their bowling attack otherwise performed pretty well.
The Black Caps had a surprise of their own on Sunday, managing to lose nine wickets in chasing down fewer than 140 to win. In part, that was due to an inspired performance from Sri Lanka's veteran fast bowler Lasith Malinga, but there was also a lot of poor shot selection and - dare we say - complacency among the New Zealand batsmen and they know that they cannot afford that against the Australians.
They will be glad that the return of Daniel Vettori means they can go into this game with two spinners (Nathan McCullum being the other) but to accommodate him on Sunday they dropped a batsman and this was partially the cause of their problems. Once Kane Williamson fell (after another failure as an opener from Luke Ronchi) there was no-one to anchor the innings and having James Franklin batting at five didn't help that at all. If there is to be any change to a team which has won three of their last four ODIs in England, expect it to be either Grant Elliott or Colin Munro coming in for Franklin.
Venue and Conditions
The early impression of this Edgbaston pitch is that it is one to bat first on, becoming increasingly difficult to score runs on as time goes on. The average first innings score recently is between 240 and 250 and no-one has ever scored more than 280 to win. Weather conditions will be similar to Monday, though, and even South Africa's stellar batting lineup struggled then, so this could be a lower-scoring match than the average.
New Zealand are the perennial underdogs and this game is no different, with Brendon McCullum's men trading at [2.2] as against the Australians' [1.8]. Neither team batted well in their opening fixture, but New Zealand just looked in better form and at least looked to score runs. Australia, by contrast, spent 30 overs struggling to get the ball off the square. Add in the fact that a New Zealand victory takes them to the semi-finals and that price looks very good.
This is a tricky market, because none of the main Australian batsmen looked to be in touch against England. The one batsman who made runs was stand-in skipper George Bailey, who probably would not have played had Clarke been fit (you can ignore the late over hitting from James Faulkner as the game was past them by then), and it seems wise to back a man who can score well even when out of form. Back him at around [5.5].
The upside of New Zealand's performance on Sunday should be that the prices on some of the batsmen who had been in form against England before this tournament should be shorter than they have been for the past week or so. The only one who is likely to be short enough to be worth backing, though, is Ross Taylor. He made big runs in the one game that the Black Caps lost, but his three ball duck on Sunday was more indicative of his recent form. That said, this Aussie attack should be more to his liking, with no-one able to generate the pace and bounce that troubled him then and with three left-armers who will, if they stray off line, give him room to play his trademark free-flowing shots. Back him if he trades above [4.6] in this market.