England return to red-ball action in New Zealand in the early hours of Wednesday morning, and we have a number of boosted prices to whet your appetite for the two-match series.
After a disappointing one-day series in South Africa, in which Jos Buttler’s men only managed to win the final dead rubber after collapsing in the first match and failing to put the hosts away in the second, England will look to get back to winning ways in what might now be their strongest format.
It’s a notion which was unthinkable 12 months ago, with England reigning world champions in the 50-over format but left licking their wounds after a humbling 4-0 defeat in the Ashes.
Though coach Brendon McCullum said he didn’t care for the term ‘Bazball’ – used to describe England’s new-found aggressive brand of cricket – he’ll be delighted with the results it’s got so far.
England had lost four straight series before the McCullum-Stokes era, but since then they have won nine of their last 10 Tests, including a 3-0 whitewash in Pakistan.
Stokes himself has been one of the main beneficiaries of this new style, scoring 541 runs in 10 matches since taking over as captain, and his side’s dominance with the bat has actually prevented him scoring more runs – he’s finished two innings not out and hasn’t even picked up his bat in three.
Despite his impressive performances, he’s yet to top score in an innings for England during his tenure as captain, and he may well be due. There should be no concerns over a declaration in New Zealand with the early threat of rain seemingly easing, and Stokes has been boosted from 11/2 to 6/1 to be England’s top first innings batter.
The attacking mindset has allowed Stokes to play at his destructive best, and not only did he score the most sixes in England’s second Test with South Africa, he also scored more sixes than every other batter combined, and may appeal having been boosted from 15/4 to 4/1 to score the most sixes in the match.
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Not that Joe Root needed the shackles of captaincy removing to help his batting – he was named the 2021 ICC Men’s Test Cricketer of the Year, after all. But he’s averaging more than 50 since Stokes took the reins and has been boosted from 8/1 to 17/2 to be named Player of the Match for the first Test.
Stuart Broad returns to the fold after missing the Pakistan series due to the birth of his daughter and will reunite with James Anderson. The pair will take the new ball, but expect Olly Robinson to get through plenty of overs.
When all three played against South Africa in two Tests, Robinson bowled as many overs – and occasionally more – than Broad and Anderson, and he’s not just someone brought in to clean up the tail. Of his 60 Test wickets, more than a third have been top-order batters.
Robinson has impressed in the Bazball era (sorry, Brendon), taking 21 wickets in 10 innings at an average of just 17.67, so don’t be surprised to see him in the mix at the Bay Oval. He’s been boosted from 13/5 to 11/4 to be England’s top first innings bowler.
And who will stand in England’s way? At 34, Tim Southee’s still going strong with the ball and is the Kiwis’ primary dangerman. He took a fairly modest six wickets across two Tests in Karachi against Pakistan, but will welcome a return to home conditions, and averages two wickets per innings at Mount Maunganui. He’s been boosted from 9/4 to 5/2 to be New Zealand’s top first innings bowler.
With the bat, Daryl Mitchell has been a massive scorer despite still being relatively new to Test match cricket, and England will know all about the threat he poses.
The all-rounder has plundered four centuries in just 20 innings – three of which came against England last summer – and with a Test match average of 58.35, he’s been boosted from 11/2 to 6/1 to be New Zealand’s top first innings batter.