A five-match T20 series between New Zealand and Australia gets underway in Christchurch on Monday and although battles between these two nations never needs any added incentive, this series might have it with the World T20 getting ever closer later in the year.
Both sides have places either in their starting XI up for grabs or in their squad to take to India so there is much more to play for over these five matches and just the rivalry the two nations have against each other.
New Zealand have already played plenty of T20 cricket this summer and there is even more to come after this series too as Bangladesh arrive on these shores. New Zealand have already dominated series against West Indies and Pakistan, and although this is generally regarded as their weakest format, they are building a nice squad of players who are looking very comfortable at the level. If those two series weren’t enough, some of their players have been playing in the recently concluded Super Smash so they will be nicely tuned into the 20 over format.
Historically New Zealand have lacked a little bit with the bat. They have often gone in with a lot of all-rounders who can all bat but it isn’t necessarily their specialist strength while the batsmen they have picked have often lacked the power game that is in demand these days. One area where New Zealand have never struggled and aren’t likely to do anytime soon is in the bowling department. They have an excellent group of white ball seamers and a growing band of spinners.
You could easily argue that this isn’t the strongest format for Australia either although that is a bit of a mystery because there isn’t really a box that they don’t tick as a side. Maybe the one thing they lack is that clever batsman who is happy to hold it all together in the middle overs, with those they use often letting their ego get in the way rather than playing for the team. They will certainly need to find one of those before they set off for India.
Much like their opponents here, Australia certainly don’t lack for bowling quality. They have plenty of good bowlers and even though they are missing their Test players for this series, they still don’t look weak in any way with the ball. The other good thing for Australia here is that the players on show in this series have been playing in the Big Bash League for the last two months so they are also tuned up to the white ball.
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The latest millionaire in New Zealand cricket, Kyle Jamieson, is expected to get the nod in the bowling attack for the Kiwis here while Devon Conway is likely to be given the chance to continue his fine T20I career in the middle order.
Australia are without the likes of Dave Warner, Steve Smith, Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc for this series so the likes of Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Josh Philippe and Jason Behrendorff are likely to get the chance to stake their claim here.
Bookmakers can’t separate these two sides which I’m a little bit surprised at given that New Zealand are at full strength and Australia are missing many of the players that will represent them in a World T20 later in the year. That said there is more than enough firepower with the bat and the ball to keep Australia competitive so while I would make New Zealand favourites I’m not particularly in a rush to oppose the Australians. Therefore it is a side market where my bet comes from here.
That is the boundaries where the line looks a little on the low side at 37.5. I say that because in the only previous T20 match at Hagley Oval there were 3 boundaries in a match which had just 153 as the first innings score. That was a day game and this is a night one but I don’t envisage a lot of difference. The pitch at Hagley is usually very good for batting and although the boundaries aren’t the smallest in the New Zealand they aren’t the biggest either. Both these sides have plenty of boundary hitters in their ranks so I like the over here.
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