Australia v New Zealand: Test & T20 Best Bets

This Summer, it’s Australia v New Zealand, including the historic Boxing Day Test. They’ll play in a best of three-Test series, along with an ODI series later in March.

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Australia are on the cusp of a perfect home summer provided they can secure a series whitewash against New Zealand in the third and final test at the Sydney Cricket Ground, beginning on Friday.

Australia

The Aussies rounded out a comprehensive 247-run win at the MCG to secure the series and continue their dominance at home against their nearest rivals. After losing the toss the hosts were surprisingly invited to bat first, a decision the Black Caps soon came to regret as Australia complied 467 to again put their neighbours on the back foot early.

Marnus Labuschagne continued his golden summer with 63, while Steve Smith finally made a significant contribution with 85 but it was a 150-run partnership between emerging left-hander Travis Head and captain Tim Paine that really put the Kiwis to the sword, Head racking up his second test century with 114 while Paine fell short of his first when he was dismissed for 79.

Australia’s dominance in the field has been a feature this series and it continued yet again with New Zealand knocked over for a paltry 148 as Pat Cummins ripped through the top order with 5/28, while James Pattinson celebrated his return to the side with 3/34. Having done all the hard work in their first innings, the home side could afford to breeze to 5/168 before declaring, leaving themselves the best part of two days to dismiss the Black Caps a second time and secure victory. As it transpired they needed less than one day with the Kiwis rolled for 240 late on day four as off-spinner Nathan Lyon again came to life late in the match, capturing 4/81.

Uncapped leg-spinner Mitch Swepson has been added to the squad for Sydney, though it remains to be seen how he can squeeze his way in with all members of the bowling attack firing and Head solidifying his place in the middle-order.


New Zealand

It was another lacklustre display from New Zealand who found themselves behind from the onset following the bizarre decision from captain Kane Williamson to bowl first. Nevertheless high-spirited left-arm quick Neil Wagner tried to apply as much pressure as possible, picking up 4/83 including the big scalps of Smith and Warner.

The Black Caps’ abominable batting effort continued with opener Tom Latham (50) the only player to pass 20 in the first innings, while six players were dismissed in single figures. Wagner again led the way in the field in the second innings for New Zealand, claiming 3/50, while orthodox spinner Mitchell Santner (1/22) finally picked up his first wicket of the series.

However the biggest positive for the Kiwis came in the final innings of the match with makeshift opener Tom Blundell compiling his second test century in three matches with a punchy 121, though skipper Williamson rounded off a horrific match with a nine-ball duck to go with just nine in the first innings, while veteran Ross Taylor was another batsmen who failed to reach double-figures in either innings.

Things got even worse for New Zealand with spearhead Trent Boult suffering a fracture in his right hand which prevented him from batting in the second innings and ruled him out of the remainder of the tour. Tall spinner Will Somerville has been brought into the squad and could come straight in for Boult or alternately may replace the ineffective Santner with Matt Henry in the frame to claim the final pace bowling spot.


Sydney Cricket Ground

Australia have lost just one test at the SCG since 2003, winning five of the past eight there. As with most grounds in the country Steve Smith has a phenomenal record here, averaging 68.50 with six 50+ scores from as many matches, however Nathan Lyon has often struggled to make the most of what are traditionally spin-friendly conditions, averaging an unflattering 47.57 with ball at his home ground.


Key Stats

  • Australia have won their last six tests at home.
  • Australia have lost only one test at the SCG since 2003.
  • New Zealand have lost seven of their past 11 tests away from home.
  • Across all formats New Zealand have lost their last seven matches at the SCG.
  • Three of the past five tests at the SCG have finished as a draw.
  • Australia’s last five tests including all four this summer have all finished on day four.

The Verdict

Australia area again heavily favoured to come away with the win, though on this occasion a daw is considered far more likely than a consolation Kiwi victory.

The reason the draw is so relatively short may well be due to potential weather conditions as while rain won’t be a factor, smoke from nearby bushfires could well be and any issues with poor air quality or visibility could see us lose overs. It’s also notable that three of the past five tests at the SCG have finished in a stalemate, though as we said with the Boxing Day test you just cannot have enough faith in this New Zealand batting line-up to be anywhere near the draw.

That lack of skill and application with the bat, coupled with more injuries to the bowling attack is enough evidence for us to also steer clear of the visitors. At the start of the series it may have been near unthinkable for the Black Caps to start a match in double-figures but such has been the feebleness of their displays in Perth and Melbourne that even such a large price does not attract us to the team who are still ranked number two on the ICC test rankings.

So what it all boils down to is whether the hosts are backable at such short odds? There’s no doubting they’re on a roll and incredibly hard to contend with in these conditions but it does take quite a bit of gumption to be on at such a skinny price. There is some hesitation due to the prospect of messing around with their bowling attack to give the untried Swepson a game, while the flat SCG pitch and any potential interruptions due to poor air quality also loom large, even if New Zealand have looked completely incapable of competing on any sort of surface.

But instead we’ll focus on the fact that not only have Australia won every test they’ve played this summer but they’ve managed to finish each off with a day to spare, so if they do go with their strongest possible XI and aren’t impacted too adversely by the elements we see no reason why we can’t look at the more attractive prices to have the game done by day four again.


BETTING STRATEGY

 BACK – Test Match End Day 4 – Morning at 7.00 or bigger for 0.33 units.

After a comprehensive win in the opener at Perth, Australia will be looking to secure the series with another victory against New Zealand in the visitors’ first Boxing Day test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 32 years.

Australia

Australia picked up from where they left off against Pakistan, winning an important toss at Perth Stadium and amassing a strong first innings total of 416 which was underpinned by a third straight century to the irrepressible Marnus Labuschagne who peeled off 143 including 18 fours and one six. Labuschagne received keen support from David Warner (43), Steve Smith (43) and Travis Head (56), though all three batsmen will be disappointed that they didn’t go on to register a more significant score.

In the field the Aussies received an early blow when Josh Hazlewood hobbled off after just one over in which he had taken a wicket, however his new ball partner Mitchell Starc picked up the slack, continuing his fine form with a stellar 5/52 as the Kiwis were knocked over for just 166.

The hosts resisted the temptation to ask New Zealand to follow on and instead set about building an insurmountable lead, the foundation of which was laid by opener Joe Burns (53) and another half-century to Labuschagne (50), though a late-order collapse saw their innings conclude at 9/217, a lead of 467. Though the Black Caps had little chance of roping in such a large target there was some hope that they may fight hard for a draw but it was not to be as they were dismissed for 171 with Starc (4/45) producing another scintillating spell, while seasoned off-spinner Nathan Lyon made the most of some variable bounce to capture 4/63.

Hazlewood has been ruled out with the hamstring injury he sustained at Perth, with veteran Peter Siddle called into the squad, though either James Pattinson or Michael Neser are expected to come into the starting XI.


New Zealand

It was a disappointing performance from the Black Caps who came into the series with high hopes but ultimately failed to deal with the conditions in Perth. They too suffered their own injury to a fast bowler with debutant Lockie Ferguson only managing 11 overs before he was forced off with a calf strain, although fellow quick Neil Wagner did his best to step into the breach, claiming 4/92 including the key wickets of Warner, Labuschagne and Smith with a typically tireless performance.

There were less positives to come out of their first effort with the bat, though a 76-run stand between captain Kane Williamson and former skipper Ross Taylor threatened to get them right into the match before Williamson (34) fell victim to a superb catch and although Taylor went on to make a punchy 80, he struggled to find support. Tim Southee led the way in the Kiwis’ second innings with the ball, finishing with 5/69 to ensure that the Australians didn’t get away from them, though most of the damage had already been done.

Perhaps the most disconcerting aspect of New Zealand’s performance was that none of their batsmen could reach fifty in the second innings despite the hosts being down a bowler with ‘keeper-batsman BJ Watling coming closest with 40, sharing in a 56-run partnership with all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme (33). Ferguson has been ruled out of the rest of the series, though that is offset by the return of spearhead Trent Boult from a side strain with lofty quick Kyle Jamieson added to the squad.

There is still plenty of pressure on opener Jeet Raval who was dismissed for 1 in both innings’ in Perth, though reserve wicket-keeper Tom Blundell shapes as an unlikely makeshift option at the top of the order.


Melbourne Cricket Ground

There has been plenty of criticism levelled at the MCG recently, mostly for being too docile though a recent Sheffield Shield fixture was abandoned when the curator went too far the other way and the pitch was deemed unfit for play.

In any case Australia have an awesome record here with last summer’s defeat against India their first at the ground in eight years, while it is also notable that only two of the past 21 tests have finished as draws.


Key Stats

  • Australia have won four of their last five tests.
  • New Zealand have still only lost two of their past ten tests.
  • Only two of the past 21 tests at the Melbourne Cricket Ground have finished as a draw.
  • Australia have scored over 400 in the first innings in their last four tests at home.
  • New Zealand have conceded over 400 in the first innings in three of their past four tests in Australia.
  • At least one side has made over 400 in the first innings in the last five tests at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The Verdict

The Australians are again heavily favoured in this one with the prospect of New Zealand squaring the series still considered slightly more likely than a draw.

Australia are certainly on a roll at the moment, shaking off their previous reliance on Smith for runs as well as an injury to one of their key bowlers in a four-man attack to romp home comfortably in Perth. It makes it all the more tempting to lump and leave the hosts, though the price still remains a bit skinny given that the surface should be more suitable for the visitors who also welcome back a key bowler.

However that in no way means that I could be getting with the Black Caps again as they still have an enormous amount to prove on these shores. There were at least some glimpses with their bowling attack who enacted some clever plans against the Aussies’ more prolific batsmen, however the performance of their own top order with the willow was extremely concerning and enough for me to keep a safe distance from the Kiwis.

That calamitous batting performance is also enough to put me off the draw. Though the surface could well be much more benign, both teams suffered collapses against undermanned bowling attacks plus the long-term record of draws at the MCG is limited so while a favourable surface may see the draw trade shorter, the match is still highly unlikely to finish in a stalemate.

Ultimately there are too many unknowns surrounding how the MCG pitch will perform over the five days to get involved on the match odds, though one could reasonably expect it to be good for batting initially. With that in mind I’m going to place my faith in the Australian batting unit which has been absolutely ruthless so far this summer.

David Warner has rebounded strongly back on his favoured home soil, while Labuschagne has looked absolutely impregnable and all the while Steve Smith has been cooling his heels and must be highly motivated to produce a series-defining score. Joe Burns is susceptible early on but has a strong record of cashing in once he gets a start, while the likes of Matthew Wade, Travis Head and Tim Paine are all still looking to secure their place in the team.

Granted the Black Caps will be boosted by the return of Boult, however his record in this country is middling and they also lack a spinner to provide bite with Mitchell Santner going wicketless in 41 overs at Perth Stadium. It all points to an Australian run fest which is why I’m going to back the hosts to clear 400 in their first innings.


BETTING STRATEGY

 BACK – Australia 1st Inns Runs 400 Runs or more at 1.80 for 2 units.

After edging out England at home New Zealand look well equipped to take on Australia in the first of a three-Test series, starting at Perth Stadium on Thursday.

Australia

The Aussies made light work of Pakistan in the recently concluded series, winning both matches by an innings in a dominant display. David Warner was in imperious form, overcoming his impoverished Ashes returns to rack up an astounding 489 runs in two innings including his sublime 335 not out at the Adelaide Oval.

First drop Marnus Labuschagne also enjoyed his time in the middle, recording twin tons, while state teammate Joe Burns celebrated his return to the national side with 97 at the Gabba.

Perhaps the only downside of the top-three run spree was that little was required from the middle-order, with even the mercurial Steve Smith allowed to get away with two knocks under 40, while the likes of Travis Head and Tim Paine who have had some doubts cast over their security, were given little opportunity to show what they were made of.

As commanding as the batting was, the hosts’ bowling was equally ruthless with Mitchell Starc cutting a swathe through the Pakistani line-up on his way to 14 wickets at an average of just 17.00, while his fellow quicks Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins were typically dependable.

Veteran spinner Nathan Lyon was forced to take a back seat for much of the series until the second innings at Adelaide where he claimed 5/69 on a wearing pitch, his 16th five-wicket haul in Test matches.

Overall the Australian side is very settled with the only change to the squad from the Pakistan series being the omission of spare batsman Cameron Bancroft, which leaves pacemen James Pattinson and Michael Neser as the two players outside of what is likely to be an unchanged starting XI.


New Zealand

There’s a lot to like about how the Black Caps have been performing in recent times and that trend continued with a 1-0 series win over England which ran parallel to Australia’s series against Pakistan.

Against the Three Lions, New Zealand started with an innings victory of their own which was underpinned by a brilliant 205 from ‘keeper-batsman BJ Watling and maiden ton to bowling all-rounder Mitchell Santner (126), before tireless left-arm paceman Neil Wagner claimed 5/44 to wrap up victory shortly after tea on the final day.

However, the Kiwis didn’t have it all their own way in the second Test, firstly losing spearhead Trent Boult and the in-form Colin de Grandhomme to injury, before conceding a first innings lead of 101. However, twin tons to skipper Kane Williamson (104 not out) and seasoned strokemaker Ross Taylor (105 not out) ensured that they escaped with a draw and secured their sixth win from their past seven series’.

Like their opponents, the visitors have carried in the same squad that overcame England, although doubts remain over the fitness of both Boult and de Grandhomme despite Black Caps coach Gary Stead describing their progress as “encouraging”.

New Zealand have also chosen to retain out-of-sorts opener Jeet Raval who is averaging just 9.14 from his past seven Test innings’, with Stead backing his credentials despite a run of low scores. The huge challenge that the Kiwis face is their poor record on Australian shores with just three Test wins in 31 attempts.


Perth Stadium

Last summer saw the first ever Test at Perth Stadium which resulted in a 146-run win for Australia over India in what were generally tricky batting conditions with Virat Kohli the only batsman to record a century.

The fact this is a day-night Test brings in a whole new element, though it is unlikely to help the batsmen any further with plenty of pace and bounce expected.


Key Stats

  • Australia have won their last four Tests at home.
  • Despite playing only 60% of their matches, Steve Smith is Australia’s second-highest run-scorer in Tests this year and is the only batsmen to score more than two centuries.
  • New Zealand have lost only one of their past nine Tests.
  • New Zealand are undefeated in their last seven Test series.
  • However, New Zealand have won only three of 31 Tests in Australia.
  • None of the 13 day-night Tests have finished in a draw.

The Verdict

Australia are healthy favourites to take an early series lead over the Black Caps with the draw considered distinctly unlikely.

Let’s start with the draw which shouldn’t be immediately disregarded given that that’s how New Zealand’s last Test ended. However, in that particular match it did take the intervention of inclement weather along with some obstinate batting (and calamitous fielding) to secure the stalemate and when you consider that there is yet to be draw in 13 day-night Tests we’d be wanting an even bigger price before we entertain this option.

As far as Australia are concerned it’s hard to gauge just how strong their recent form is, given that Pakistan provided very little competition, particularly with the ball. Granted the Aussies’ prior series was an impressive drawn series away in England, however, the Ashes highlighted an alarming over-reliance on Smith which could be exposed again given the quality that New Zealand possess with the ball. There’s no doubting the class of the home side’s bowling attack but I’d be hesitant to get involved at such a short price against accomplished opposition.

So are New Zealand good enough to win in Australia? I don’t think too many questions can be asked about their talent and depth as they boast a long batting-line up with proven performers such as Williamson, Taylor and Watling, while their seam attack also possesses plenty of potency and experience.

The conditions in Perth may be the most foreign to them, however, a low-scoring match could present their best opportunity and it’s worth remembering that they pushed the Aussies all the way in the first ever day-night Test four years ago, going down by just three wickets.

Their record in Australia is certainly a red flag but if any Black Caps side is ready to win in Australia it is this one, having hoisted themselves up to number two in the ICC Test rankings with a series of impressive displays.

Therefore I just cannot overlook the visitors’ price in this one, although given their prior struggles in this country and the fact the Kiwis tend to develop a mental blind spot against their fierce rivals I will be looking to trade out for a profit.


BETTING STRATEGY

 BACK to LAY – New Zealand at $5.20 or bigger for 1 unit (trade out at 3.25 or better).


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