So it's time for the Trans-Tasman Trophy. I has been a long time since New Zealand actually beat Australia, but with the current Australian bowling lineup there is a slow dawning of hope in New Zealand that the boys can taste some success on the West Island.
The question is: how realistic is that hope?
New Zealand has been a graveyard for quality batsmen. There just have not been many come from here. At time of writing, only 10 players have played 10 or more games for NZ and averaged over 40. The rest of the world have produced 183. However of those 10, 2 are in the current team, as well as 2 more in the next 8 players. This is possibly the best batting line up New Zealand has ever had. The only possible exceptions are the team that contained Richardson, Fleming, Astle, McMillan and Cairns, or the team that contained Crowe, Reid, Wright and Coney. They are also all in form. In the last 2 matches every one of the top 6 have scored at least one hundred, and most have scored a fifty also. I read somewhere they over the last 4 innings they average 74. (I haven't checked this, but I'll trust the newspaper to be correct)
At the same time as New Zealand's batting is strong, Australia's bowlers are so inexperienced that some of the commentators are struggling to tell them apart. Because they have lost so many players it is hard to know how well they are going to play. What we saw in the warm up match was that despite New Zealand really going for their shots and playing risky shots they managed to score over 400 both innings. It will be interesting to see how this battle will go.
The other side is more settled. The Australian bating lineup has a couple of new faces, but is a lot more settled. The New Zealand bowling line up really only has one new face with only one of Bracewell or Boult likely to play. Bracewell has started his test career off encouragingly, while Boult has yet to make a debut, but has some good form in domestic cricket behind him. Southee enjoyed Brisbane last time, and is a much better bowler now. Martin has not been in a good run of form, but he has a very good record against left handers. Given that 4 of the top 6 batsmen in Australia are left handed, he might not be as ineffective as he has been in recent matches.
The Australian batsmen are generally high quality but under pressure. The scepter of all out for 46 will be hanging over their heads. Two of their batsmen (Hughes and Khawaja) average below 40, which is not something that we are accustomed to seeing from players that play the majority of their cricket in Australian conditions. The New Zealand bowlers will be smelling blood. However they may be going in confident, but they have not really demonstrated an ability to bowl teams out quickly. Over the last 2 years they have taken a wicket every 81 deliveries. To put this in context it means that it takes about 135 overs to bowl out a team. Given that there is about 450 overs in a test match, if New Zealand take 270 overs to bowl out Australia, there are only 180 left in the match for New Zealand to bat.
To add to this there is a forecast of rain for at least 2 of the days. If this forecast is correct the I see a result being entirely pitch dependent. Both teams having reasonable batting line ups and average bowling line ups means that they are both going to be unlikely to bowl each other out. Unless there is some real venom in the pitch then I think that $2.60 that Bet365 are paying for the draw is good money.
If I was looking for another couple of bets I'd look at Michael Clarke as the top run-scorer in Australia's first innings. He is right handed so nullifies Martin and (to a lesser degree) Boult. He bats at number 5, a position that New Zealand has great difficulty dismissing in recent time, and he has a great record against New Zealand, averaging over 60.
I would also look to put money on Williamson overs once he reaches 10. He gets out under 10 in more than half of his innings, but once he gets going it is rare for him to get out under 50.
So those are my thoughts and where I'm putting my 20c.