The opening Test in Dunedin could hardly have begun in worse fashion for England. Reduced to 18-3 inside the first hour, with the captain out to an uncharacteristically loose shot and Kevin Pietersen undone first ball by another left arm bowler, they were bowled out well within three sessions. After that, they were batted out of the game by a side who had struggled to score at all against South Africa less than two months earlier. Only the loss of the opening day of play saved them from losing the opening game of a series yet again, this time on a pitch with so little life that even bowler Steven Finn could bat for five hours on it by the end.
Wellington’s Basin Reserve ground will provide a different setting to the Dunedin track. Widely held to be the fastest pitch in New Zealand, it will offer both bounce and movement for the bowlers. The first of those factors will be particularly welcome for England’s vice-captain, Stuart Broad, who has struggled in the Test arena for over a year now, was dropped against India at the end of 2012 and who took his first Test wicket since August last year in Dunedin. Even his batting, so long his saving grace, has fallen away of late and he must be very close to losing his place again. On a pitch likely to suit him, expect a big performance, especially if New Zealand bat first. Back him to be England’s leading bowler at best betting odds of 10/3 (most markets)
The Black Caps are unlikely to make any changes to the team which did so well on the South Island. Opener Hamish Rutherford made 171 runs on debut, the second highest score by a New Zealand debutant, whilst his opening partner Peter Fulton played well on his return to the side after four years away. The rest of the batting chipped in in a way which they had not done against the South Africans and they looked a much improved team as they ran up a huge lead of 293 on first innings.
Their bowling will be a concern, though. Neil Wagner performed well to pick up seven wickets in the match, but the decision to pick him alongside his fellow left-armer Travis Boult and left arm spinner Bruce Martin meant that all three lost the advantage that left arm bowlers usually have, with the England batsmen giving themselves plenty of time in the second innings to get used to the different angle of attack. Whilst they can point to the fact that England have yet to bowl any team out on this leg of their tour, when a tailender like Finn can score 56 runs and bat for 203 balls in a game you are trying to win, you have a problem.
Wellington hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for New Zealand in recent years. They’ve not won there since 2008, when they beat Bangladesh. Since then, the average first innings score has been a shade over 281, but for the hosts alone that goes down to 217. This looks a more solid side, though, so back both an England first innings lead and an England victory, with the latter still reasonably priced at 8/11 by Bet365.