After a win, a loss and a no-result in their three T20 warm-up games, England can be no more than satisfied with how they’ve performed since arriving in New Zealand. I certainly wouldn’t be rushing to back Ashley Giles‘ team at 8/11 with Blue Square, 888sport and William Hill to win their three-match series with the Kiwis.
There have been positives, of course, most notably the return to full fitness of Stuart Broad who has already been among the wickets and looks much more mobile than before his injury lay-off. Jos Buttler has been among the runs and it looks like Eoin Morgan has finally turned the corner so England should certainly be competitive but there are still issues to be resolved. Should Michael Lumb or Luke Wright open the batting? Can England afford the keep faith with Jade Dernbach, who took a bit of a pasting in India? His variations can be an asset at the death but that has to be traded against the amount of runs he concedes. There may not be much between the two sides and we’d rather back New Zealand at 5/4 to win the series with Betfred, Skybet, Paddy Power and Boylesports.
Like the West Indies and Sri Lanka, the Kiwis concentrate more on limited-overs cricket than the longer version of the game nowadays and they have some big-hitters among their ranks, though Jesse Ryder will be a big miss. However, Ross Taylor appears to have made his peace with coach Mike Hesson and the former skipper is back in contention. Taylor’s return could help heal some of the rifts in New Zealand cricket, though there was plenty of evidence of team spirit in their recent surprise one-day victory over South Africa. The one worry would be a relative lack of experience among the New Zealand bowlers but England’s attack won’t include either Jimmy Anderson or Graeme Swann meaning added pressure on Broad and Steven Finn if Dernbach can’t find a little more discipline.
Broad is 7/2 with Ladbrokes to be England’s leading wicket-taker in the T20 series but I am struggling to find value in the betting for England’s leading run-maker. Alex Hales (3/1 with BetVictor and Paddy Power), Lumb (10/3 with bet365) and Wright (7/2 with bet365, Paddy Power and William Hill) all enjoyed some success in Australia’s Big Bash this winter while Morgan (9/2 with bet365 and Paddy Power) is capable of winning a match on his own but is unlikely get as many overs at the crease as the openers.