New Zealand v South Africa
Tuesday 7 March 22.00
TV: Live on Sky Sports
Frazzled after a flop with the bat which cost them the ODI series, it is the home team's lack of strength with the willow which occupies their thoughts.
Tom Latham, who has been in horrible form, will open with the inexperienced Jeet Raval, potentially exposing Kane Williamson, who is by far their best player, early. That could leave Ross Taylor, often flighty, to marshal a middle- to lower-order of Henry Nicholls, Jimmy Neesham, BJ Watling and Mitchell Santner. It doesn't look full of runs
They are strong with the ball, though. Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner are an excellent set of pacers. Wagner is the main man with 51 wickets at 22 since the start of 2016.
This lot can bat, but can they bowl? The workload of Kagiso Rabada recently has been so hefty that the Saffers are praying twice nightly that he doesn't get injured.
Rabada, just 21, has been on the go since last October and it's a schedule which must surely begin to affect not only his pace but his fitness soon. Vernon Philander is a good workhorse but there's not much besides.
Morne Morkel is coming back from a severe back injury while Chris Morris and Wayne Parnell are unlikely to do too much damage with the red ball.
So they will need Faf Du Plessis, Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock to be at their run-making best. There is no AB De Villiers.
There have been only seven Tests at the University Oval, all since 2008. The first-innings scores read (most recent first): 431-609-167-238-429-365-137. A mixed bag? Not really because it is New Zealand who can bat here but nobody else. All the scores above and including the 365 were by the Kiwis. It's the tourists who are getting shot out for low numbers.
And it's seam and swing that is doing it. Wagner (on his Otago ground), Southee and Boult have been lethal on this surface.
Despite the low scores above, only three of the seven tests have produced results. So we shouldn't get carried away reckoning this is going to be a bowlers' paradise. The draw at [4.9] immediately is of interest.
Still, the weather forecast is good and we might not be able to resist a plump on the Kiwis. If you subscribe to the view that Tests are won by the team most likely to take 20 wickets - and we do - then there's precious little to choose between the two.
That makes the Kiwis the value call at [3.3] with South Africa no fun whatsoever at [1.99].
Teams winning the toss in New Zealand have bowled first in the last 22 Tests so don't be surprised to see the winner stick them in.
Williamson averages 55 as skipper and he may not have much to beat here. His greatest rival is Taylor, who at least trumps his leader on ground record. Taylor averages 78 with a double ton and two fifties in ten innings. Williamson averages 48. Williamson is 9/4 with Sportsbook and Taylor 4/1.
Some interest here in the 8/1 that Sportsbook offer about De Kock. We like the price because of the chance that the South Africa top order gets swung out on a wicket described as "juicy". Amla and Du Plessis are both 3/1.
1pt Back New Zealand at [3.30]
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.
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