Tuesday 21 October 2014

Match preview 1st ODI NZ vs SA, Mount Maunganui,

The circular Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui
The countdown to the World Cup finally feels like it's started for real. South Africa are touring New Zealand for 3 ODI matches that are more a means to an end than an end in themselves.  Both teams say that they want to win these matches, and the players who get on the field definitely will.  But they are both aware that the real target is the World Cup.

Surprisingly this match is being played at Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui. It's the 4th ground in the Northern Districts area to hold an international match, and is not going to be used in the World Cup.  However, it is in New Zealand's fastest growing region, and is likely to be a place where a lot of international cricket will be played in the future.  It is also on the east coast, so it is a lot less likely to be rained off in spring time than somewhere like Auckland or Wellington.

As there has never been an international at the ground, there are some aspects that are hard to predict. A par score for the ground really has not been established at this level, and almost all of the players will go in without too much baggage (positive or negative) at the ground.

There were a number of warm up matches played there, and we can tell some things from those.

Firstly, bowlers that tend to bang the ball in were punished.  It seems that the fuller the pace bowlers bowled, the better they did. Secondly the scores were all over the place. Some teams were scoring 300+ while others were struggling to pass 150.  Also, the spin bowlers took lots of wickets but (with two exceptions) went for lots of runs. The two exceptions were Daniel Vettori and local boy Jono Boult (brother of Trent)

The ground is an interesting shape, particularly given it's name of Bay Oval. It is a perfect circle. The boundary is 68m from the centre of the pitch in every direction. This means that it has a straight boundary of 79m and a square boundary of 67m. This obviously favours players who are good at playing the hook, cut and scoop shots (which probably explains why bowlers who bang the ball in get punished).

I've looked through the records of the players at similar shaped, coastal grounds in the past 3 years and there are three names that feature at the top of the list: de Villiers, McLaren and well ahead of all else, du Plessis. The top New Zealand name is Williamson (who is not playing) followed by Neesham.

If I was looking to make a couple of bets, I'd look at putting some money on both du Plessis and McLaren to be top scorer. While it's guaranteed that at least one of these bets will fail, I think it would be a sensible move to cover both.  At time of writing, du Plessis is paying $4.50 and McLaren is paying $26 to be top scorer at the NZ TAB. I think this is good money for both of them. du Plessis has gone past 90 in 5 of his last 9 ODI innings. That's compelling form. I'd look at McLaren for a different reason.

The ball is likely to swing at Bay Oval. It's overcast, with showers likely. The tide will turn at about 11:00, an normally the ball swings around the turn of the tide (either just before or just after). Trent Boult grew up in Tauranga so this is his home ground. If he starts getting the ball to go round corners (as he can) he is almost unplayable. In the matches at the Champions League T20 when the ball swung, he was almost unplayable. To go with that, Kyle Mills has been a beast at similar grounds in recent times. He's averaged 11 at an economy rate of under 4. To back that up, in one of the warm up matches (for Auckland against Afghanistan) he took 2/14 off 7 overs. Mitchell McLenaghan is not in such form, but he has a good record against South Africa, and the ability to hurry up batsmen.  I think it's actually quite likely that New Zealand will take early wickets, and South Africa will need to rebuild. That will create a platform for someone like McLaren to succeed.

As far as New Zealand's batting goes, it is a bit difficult to make too many predictions.  Despite his game being suited to grounds like this, Brendon McCullum has never really been successful at this sort of ground. Neesham is opening for the first time, so that will test his technique more than coming in at 6 does, especially against Steyn, Morkel and Philander (Steyn has the second best figures at grounds like this, after Mills, with an average about 18 and an economy rate just under 5). The other interesting selection is Dean Brownlie. Brownlie is particularly good off the back foot, and has had some success against South Africa, but in every large innings that he has put together, he was dropped early (often more than once). If he gets started, he might be worth putting some money on for NZ top scorer, but I certainly wouldn't back him until he made it to 25.

The other thing to watch out for in this match will be the rain.  There may be some showers early on, but it's quite likely that there will be some serious rain in the evening. This means that there is a reasonable chance that the game will be called off early, and Duckworth-Lewis will need to be used.  I'm a big fan of the Duckworth-Lewis system, but it does hurt teams with good batting depth.  The two teams in world cricket that it works against the most are these two. As a result, the team that bats first is likely to have a slight advantage if it rains.

If I had $50 to bet on this match, I'd suggest these:

1. AB De Villiers to outscore Hashim Amla $10 at $1.92
2. Total match run outs over 1.5 $10 at $3.00
3. Faf du Plessis top South African scorer $15 at $4.50
4. Ryan McLaren top South African scorer $5 at $26.00
5. Whoever bats first to win the match $10 at what ever the odds are post toss.

(all odds from the NZ TAB at the time of writing)

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