After a disappointing summer of Test cricket where England saw the Ashes return to Australia following a home series for the first time since 2001, they start what is a new era for the Test side with the tour of New Zealand, which gets underway on Wednesday.
Indeed with a new coach in Chris Silverwood, as well as changes expected at the top of the order, it looks like England will approach this series with a change of tack.
Our cricket betting expert previews the best bets ahead of the first of two Tests.
The Ashes series against Australia exposed the frailties in England’s batting line-up. Considering they never really replaced Andrew Strauss, losing Alastair Cook has been an even bigger loss than he otherwise would have been. Rory Burns performed reasonably well and deserves another shot, with Dom Sibley expected to be the next opener off the County production line.
The Warwickshire man scored over 1,300 runs in the County Championship last season and a ton in the warm-up game will excite England fans further. He has the appetite to bat all day long, a classic Test match opener, and at 9/1, don’t be surprised if he marks his debut with a first-innings hundred.
The batting reshuffle is expected to continue with Joe Denly moving to number three, and captain Joe Root going back to number four. This may be Denly’s last chance to nail down a spot in the order, with Zak Crawley pushing for inclusion too. It is Ollie Pope that England fans should be most looking forward to seeing. He’s the most naturally talented batsman to come into the side since Joe Root, averaging 59 in First-class cricket and should make himself right at home at number five. At 20/1, Pope to end the game as Man of the Match could present considerable value given his end of season form, and his 88 in the warm-up match against New Zealand A.
England’s bowlers look somewhat more settled than the batsman, with only one place really up for grabs. Chris Woakes and Sam Curran have battled it out in the warm-up games and it seems likely it will be Curran to get the nod. He’s always performed well in the Test team, contributing wickets and runs, with Woakes record in England far stronger than it is abroad. The one to watch again looks to be Jofra Archer. Having been well-rested since his summer exploits, he looked firey in the warm-up game and is hard to look past for highest wicket-taker in the first innings at 11/2.
New Zealand strength in this format undoubtedly comes from their bowling, with Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner as strong a seam attack as you can get in seaming conditions. If they opt to throw in Lockie Ferguson, who has genuine x-factor pace, England’s new-look batting order will have their work cut out for them. England have traditionally struggled against left-arm seamers, which makes it difficult to look much further than Trent Boult to be the highest wicket-taker in the first innings at 5/1.
With the bat, New Zealand are of course heavily reliant on Kane Williamson one of the best cricketers in the world, and England will go a long way to winning this series if they can keep him quiet for four innings. Tom Latham comes into this game with a couple of scores to his name and could perform well. Ross Taylor has six fifties and two hundreds against England already and I’m backing him to get to three figures in the first innings at 5/1.
How many of our top-15 cricketers in the world will feature in this series?