Broad appeals at 3/1
Our Dave Tickner expects Stuart Broad to star again for England in the third Test against New Zealand.
- Related Content
After two rain-affected draws, the New Zealand v England Test series boils down to a one-game shootout at Auckland's Eden Park.
While the intervention of the weather is frustrating, it's fairly easy to argue that it hasn't materially affected the state of play given that New Zealand had much the better of the first game and England the second.
And for all the criticism of unhelpful pitches, both matches would likely have produced results had a full five days' play been possible and we'd now be talking about a decider at 1-1 rather than 0-0.
Does that affect our thinking? It should, because the current forecast for Auckland is set fair with almost no chance of rain during the Test.
Our mistrust of weather forecasts more than 48 hours in advance is long-standing and well documented, but one that points to a settled picture should not be discounted.
There is likely to be a winner in Auckland; England have the quality, and in Brendon McCullum New Zealand have a gambler at the helm. There was a glint in his eye after the washed-out fifth day in Wellington as he considered the possibility of a series win over England. You can be sure his side will go for it.
The feeling is, though, that they missed their best chance in Dunedin after catching England cold in the first innings. The batting failings of that effort have been largely cut out in successive 400-plus totals in the second innings at the University Oval and the first at the Basin Reserve.
Another big total in the first innings in Auckland could well be enough to set up a series-clinching victory and England are not the worst 4/6 shot you'll ever see.
But James Anderson was troubled by a stiff back in the second Test, Steven Finn is struggling for rhythm, and Monty Panesar - back as frontline spinner in the absence of Graeme Swann - is finding wickets hard to come by away from the helpful sub-continent surfaces where he has played his recent Test cricket.
These factors combine to steer me away from a hefty single on England and opt instead to back Stuart Broad to be England's top bowler in the first innings at Blue Square's 3/1.
Broad picked up six wickets in the first innings at Wellington and his pace and confidence were clearly up. This is important to Broad, who is a streaky kind of bowler.
This was his fourth six-wicket haul in Test cricket, and the other three have all been followed up with further wicket-taking success. After taking six expensive and rather fortunate wickets at Headingley in 2009, he memorably - and career-makingly - demolished the Aussies by taking 5/37 next time out at The Oval.
A six-wicket haul against India at Trent Bridge in 2011 was backed up by figures of 2/30, 4/53 and 2/28 in the next three innings and his seven-for against West Indies was followed by a four wickets in the second innings.
Broad has taken more wickets at a better rate than any other bowler in this series and has bagged top bowler honours again within two innings of all his previous Test six-wicket hauls.
Given his renewed form, fitness and confidence - and the doubts about all his rivals in this market - he looks worthy of support.
Another bet of interest would be Nick Compton to be top England batsman. His second Test century was far more fluent and confident than his first, and was the innings of a man who now knew he belonged at this level. That's a powerful weapon and not to be underestimated, but he's no better than 5/1 which is probably no more than a fair price given the calibre of England's top five.