England v New Zealand – Thursday 2nd June to Monday 6th June, Lord’s. Daily start time 11am.
It’s here! Test cricket is back in England and what a great way to start the summer, with world Test champions New Zealand over for three matches. What a series it promises to be and with the added twists that both new England head coach Brendon McCullum and new captain Ben Stokes are Kiwis themselves!
McCullum, a New Zealand all-time great and Stokes, one of England’s in terms of his playing career, will have an added incentive to get one over on their fellow countrymen, which makes this less of a ‘done deal’ than it might first look.
England, smarting from a poor recent Test record, a hammering in Australia during the winter and a disappointing defeat in the West Indies earlier in the spring to compound that, want to ‘get back on the horse’.
They’ll have a real challenge on their hands, however, against a team where everyone knows their role and one that is still on a high from beating India in England, in last year’s inaugural Test championship decider.
It promises to be absolutely fascinating. England have the red hot Harry Brook, who has already scored over 1,000 runs in both red and white ball cricket this season, an outstanding feat before the end of May.
However, rumours are that he is unlikely to be found a place in the team, which seems folly on the part of the host nation, who desperately need that sort of quality if they are to halt their recent slide.
Let’s hope the hosts don’t live to regret that but it hardly smacks of a new era of excitement, when a man who has been despatching the ball to all parts of the county cricket circuit can’t be found a place in the team. He’ll surely never be in better form to give him a go.
England are a best-priced 7/5 to win the series with SBK and Smarkets, who are both best-priced about a New Zealand series win too, at 28/13. Betfair’s 11/5 about the Black Caps looks another tasty price. The draw is a best-priced 29/10 with BetVictor.
For me, the draw could be the way to go as far as a series result is confirmed. England are notoriously slow starters and if you’re thinking of a bet on the first Test at Lord’s, then I reckon New Zealand are the more likely winners.
However, with some very good pitches being prepared in England in county cricket so far this season, there is plenty of scope for at least one drawn Test. So I’m with one win for each team, plus a draw, to leave the series all-square.
As for the opening Test, curiously, New Zealand are 2/1 to win and this looks a cracking price to me, so I’d get on with bet365.
Joe Root is a best-priced 8/1 to be Player of the Match. He has every incentive to remind everyone of his class, having vacated the captaincy hot seat. However, if his team are to finish on the losing side, as I am suggesting, he is unlikely to pick up that award.
For the Black Caps to win, one of the top three is likely to score heavily and there is no one better at that than Kane Williamson, who was once teammates with Root for Yorkshire and has vast experience of English conditions.
He looks a play at 10/1 for POM with Sky Bet and I’d also have a wager on the excellent left arm seam of Neil Wagner, who is 12/1. I think both will play a big part if their team is to succeed.