Ed Hawkins previews a potential cracker from Auckland on Friday morning but says the toss will be important...
"New Zealand have got power players of their own and they probably have more smarts than the Aussies in terms of fielding plans"
New Zealand v Australia
Friday 16 February 06.00
TV: live on Sky Sports
New Zealand got their campaign off to a winning start by beating England last time out. But it was more than a win. It reminded them that they way they do things is the right way.
Kane Williamson, the captain, had come under pressure for his place with calls for him to be dropped. A dearth of runs at No 3 were hurting New Zealand but Williamson emphatically answered the critics with 72 from 46 balls.
There were also runs for Martin Guptill - 65 from 40 - but it is true that the Kiwis are top-heavy with their batting. One from Guptill, Williamson or Colin Munro, the other opener, has to get a score otherwise they are in trouble.
The middle-order looks weak and Colin de Grandhomme, the all-rounder, was promoted to No 4 to try to keep the momentum going. Ross Taylor is playing an anchor role.
New Zealand are stronger with the ball. Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi are the Nos 1 and 3 bowlers in the world while Trent Boult is a major pace threat.
Australia are already in the final having swept aside New Zealand (once) and England (twice). Yet they still have questions about their best XI.
David Warner is on a horror run and, strangely unlike the Kiwis, no-one is questioning his spot in the team. His scores in the limited-overs matches since the end of the Ashes read: 2-4-6-15-13-8-35-2.
It means that, unfairly, a form player is missing out. Last time Travis Head, who had a fine Big Bash, was dropped from the team which chased with ease against England at Melbourne. Aaron Finch, now fit again, is having to bat in the middle order because Australia won't give Warner a rest. And certainly D'Arcy Short deserves a run as opener.
So far it has not hurt them thanks to the power of Chris Lynn and Glenn Maxwell at Nos 3 and 4. They have good striking options lower down, too with Alex Carey.
The last 12 first-innings scores at Eden Park read: 201-1/185-1 /171-1/142-2/189-1/214-1/165-1/159-2/143-2/155-t/184-1/115-2. That's an average of 169. So the smart thing to do if a captain wins the toss is to bat and pile on the pressure. Particularly as seven of the eight games under lights here have been won by the side batting first.
New Zealand are [2.5] and Australia [1.65]. That's a big gulf in class according to the odds and one that we don't believe actually exists.
Sure, Australia have great batting power, Warner aside, and their tails are up. AJ Tye's brilliant T20 bowling is also a factor. And we are also wary of New Zealand's ability to self-destruct. Take their inept batting against Billy Stanlake in the tournament opener as an example.
But they've got power players of their own and they probably have more smarts than the Aussies in terms of fielding plans. They are not the No 2 side in the world for nothing.
And, of course, the overwhelming factor here is the toss. The lights make it a fifty-fifty call so it would be a bizarre betting strategy not to be on the Kiwis batting first. Around [2.4] should still be available.
Top New Zealand bat
New Zealand's batting has twice failed in the last two at Eden Park, being bowled out for 101 against South Africa and, last month, 153 against Pakistan. Santner top scored in that game. Guptill, Williamson and Munro all have good records there though. They average 47, 33 and 31 respectively. Guptill is [4.0], Williamson [4.4] and Munro [4.1].
Top Australia bat
Warner is easy to swerve at [4.4] considering his recent record. Short gets a [4.4] shot. You could gamble on Australia dropping Warner and moving Finch up to open by taking the [5.3]. Lynn is [4.3]. We like Maxwell at [5.3].
Ed Hawkins P-L
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
New Zealand bat 1st at [2.4] (2pts)