England to take a while to break down Kiwis


NEW Zealand aren’t the only opponents England will face at Lord’s during the first home Test of the summer.

Once again, the weather is expected to take centre stage and according to the odds, there is a good chance that it could be the winner.

The Three Lions go in to the contest as 4/5 favourites with Coral but that outcome is closely followed by the draw at 11/8 with the same firm.

It was the result on each occasion in the three Tests between the teams in New Zealand back in March.

England can count themselves fortunate to have escaped without defeat after Matt Prior, this week named England Cricketer of the Year, heroically dug in for an unbeaten 110 in the final Test at Auckland.

One of the main reasons England failed to come out on top was their inability to get the ball to swing.

The hosts will be buoyed by a return to the more conducive Duke ball, which is used on home soil, as opposed to the Kookaburra that the majority of other nations prefer.

But the cold weather that has been predicted over the next five days may hamper the hosts’ efforts to get the ball moving, while New Zealand, of any tourists, are most familiar with the typical early season English conditions that have got the better of many a visiting side.

So quite rightly, the spotlight has fallen on the two bowling units, and after being outperformed by the Kiwis just a couple of months ago, James Anderson and company are the ones with a point to prove.

Anderson, England’s king of swing, is quite understandably favourite, at 15/8 with Coral, to be his team’s top bowler.

Stuart Broad (11/4) will be fired-up after losing the vice-captaincy to Prior and has taken wickets for Nottinghamshire but Anderson looks a sound investment in the market and needs just two more Test wickets to register the career 300-mark.

Steven Finn (11/4) might consider himself in with a shout too after a productive time in New Zealand. That tour demonstrated his all-round improvement and, boosted by his maiden half-century, he topped the England FTI Most Valuable Player winter 2012 rankings after his exploits with bat and ball.

On his own turf, a buy of the Middlesex man’s series runs at 24 with Sporting Index is a speculative, yet relatively low-risk investment that appeals.

Despite anticipating the draw at Lord’s, England should win the series and are as short as 2/5 to make their superiority count. The draw is 3/1 and New Zealand are 10/1.

Andy Flower’s men sit six rungs higher than eighth-placed New Zealand in the current ICC Test rankings for good reason and I don’t expect them to be complacent ahead of the Ashes as they prepare for the main event.

Backing England to win the series 1-0, at 7/4 with Coral, seems the sensible approach. A spread bet on that scoreline can be placed by buying England 1-0 at 36 with Sporting Index. This market comes with the insurance of 25 points being awarded if the series winner is correct in addition to the 50 when the score is rightly selected.

■ Pointers…
England to draw with New Zealand in first Test at 11/8 with Coral
Anderson to be top England bowler in first Test at 15/8 with Coral
Buy Steven Finn series runs at 24 with Sporting Index
England to win series 1-0 at 7/4 with Coral