England end their tour of New Zealand this week when they take on the Kiwis in the second Test match of the two on the schedule. This one comes from Hamilton where the tourists know they have to win the level the series.
New Zealand go into this second match of the series knowing that they only have to avoid defeat to win it, but given the heartache they have suffered at the hands of England in recent times, they might be eager to extract more revenge.
We saw everything that equates to why New Zealand are ranked so highly in Test match cricket in that opening game of the series. They were never in the match for the first two days, but they hung in there and then when the chance came to plough through the open door, they grabbed the opportunity with both hands, showing good patience with the bat to put up a massive score and then outstanding control with the ball to win the game.
There is still room for improvement for the New Zealand side too which will encourage them. Their top order never delivered in that first game so the task for them will be to come to the party. If they do that then the Kiwis will have even more time in the game to force through another victory, and go some way to making up for the disappointment of that World Cup final heartache.
England went into the series as the distinct second favourites to win it and we saw why in that opening match. They got themselves into a fantastic position after the opening day but then some braindead cricket ensued and they could never get back on track. They were not helped in the field by some ridiculous tactical decisions from Joe Root, who continues to look out of his depth as a Test match captain, but they didn’t help themselves at the same time.
We heard all about how England were going to be patient and bat proper Test match styles and for a day that looked very good but their natural instincts then took over and defeat soon became inevitable. The worry in that first game was how impotent they looked with the ball. They definitely have the attack to take wickets so it can only be the ordinary captaincy that is holding them back. That isn’t going to change here.
New Zealand will be forced into a couple of changes for this match with Colin de Grandhomme and Trent Boult both ruled out through injury. Daryl Mitchell will make his Test debut for CdG and there is a battle between Matt Henry and Lockie Ferguson to come in for Boult. Henry is expected to win that.
England could also be forced to make a change after news broke that Jos Buttler suffered a back spasm on the eve of the match. If he misses out, as is expected, Ollie Pope would keep wicket with Zak Crawley or Chris Woakes coming in for the Lancashire man.
There have been 25 previous Test matches at the Hamilton venue and New Zealand have a fantastic record here with 12 wins to just six defeats. There have also been seven draws here. England have only played one match at this ground, which came back in 2008 when they were soundly beaten to the tune of 189 runs.
You wouldn’t think it if you just looked at the last match here where New Zealand ran up over 700 against Bangladesh but this is generally a lower scoring ground with the ball often swinging, especially when the clouds roll in, and some grass always being left on the pitch. It has been stifling in this part of the world recently so the longer the game goes the more a spinner might well come into play.
England have a good record at bouncing back after a poor performance and it might be that they do that again here but I can’t be ignoring an even bigger price on New Zealand in this match than I took in the first game. There was a clear gulf between the two sides and I don’t really see where England can improve personnel wise apart from switching the spinner. New Zealand basically won the first Test without Boult and Matt Henry is a decent red ball bowler. With more to come from the home side I think they are a big price here.
BJ Watling had a wonderful first Test with a career best double century in the only innings he batted in and he also scooped up five catches on a pitch which didn’t do a whole lot the time England batted in both their knocks. That accounted for 255 performance points so I’m a little surprised that he has a line as low as 91.5 for this second Test match. The pitch is likely to do a bit more which means he will be more in the game with the gloves and he has a decent enough technique to counter that with the bat. I expect him to cover this line.
It remains to be seen if England use Chris Woakes in this match, but if they do then the 33/1 on him top scoring looks a little big. This England batting unit looked caught in two minds to me in the first game. They tried to occupy the crease initially but didn’t go anywhere with it and then second time around they played all sorts of horror shots so I wouldn’t be surprised to see another top order struggle from them here, even though I like Burns, Sibley and Denly. Woakes is improving all the time as a Test match batsman and so that 33/1 is worth a nibble that he heads England’s first innings scoring, especially if he replaces Buttler and bats at seven.
Back New Zealand to win 2nd Test for a 4/10 stake at 2.38 with William Hill
Back C.Woakes Top England 1st Inns Batsman for a 1/10 stake at 34.00 with William Hill
Back them here:
Back BJ.Watling’s Performance – Over 91.5pts for a 4/10 stake at 1.83 with Betfair
Back him here: