Kiwis value for Leeds leveller
Our Dave Tickner reckons New Zealand are a huge price to pull off a series-levelling victory against England in Leeds.
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Stuart Broad produced a spell of quite staggering brilliance at Lord's to bowl England to a 170-run victory in the first Test, and the hosts are now short-priced jollies to wrap up a 2-0 series win as the action moves north to Headingley.
But Broad's brilliance masked a number of concerns for England, with only Joe Root and Jonathan Trott among the top seven looking anywhere near their best with the bat and Steven Finn hugely flattered by his first-innings four-fer.
The margin of victory was ultimately vast but for more than three days New Zealand competed gamely and were undoubtedly ahead on points at various stages.
Throw in the three-match series in New Zealand a couple of months ago in which the hosts had the better of two of the three Tests and you have to wonder quite why Brendon McCullum's side are right out at 10/1.
Yes, England are the better side and deserve favouritism after the manner in which they powered to victory in the first Test but as 170-run victories go, this was a close one.
At the very least, with England's batting looking fragile and Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Neil Wagner all posing them problems on a consistent basis, a double-figure pre-match quote has great back-to-lay potential.
New Zealand have had a couple of injury blows, but neither should dramatically upset their equilibrium. McCullum will keep in place of BJ Watling with the experienced Martin Guptill slotting into the middle order, while Dan Vettori is a fine replacement for Bruce Martin. They may even opt to instead bring in Doug Bracewell for a four-man pace attack and leave the spin bowling to Kane Williamson, who has a fine record against England.
Whichever route they go down, the injuries - given the replacements available - do not justify the huge price.
Another factor is the venue. New Zealand's pace trio (or quartet) should all find things to their liking at Headingley if the clouds roll in while nowhere else in the country will England feel the absence of Kevin Pietersen more keenly.
KP, still out with a badly bruised knee, has plundered three centuries in his four Tests in LS6 with both his average and strike-rate in the 80s.
After that, things fall away quickly. Trott made 35 and 30 not out in his only Test here, while Matt Prior's record is solid. But Alastair Cook averages in the low 30s with a high-score of just 60 from five Tests, Ian Bell just 23 from five games. Nick Compton, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow have played no Tests here although in the case of the Yorkshire pair that's not a great cause for concern.
Indeed, were we not already on Root at 15/2 for top series bat, we'd be advising a bet on him to top-score in the first innings at 6/1. He looked much the best of England's batsmen at Lord's and his second-innings 71 was one of only two, along with Ross Taylor's counter-attacking 66 in New Zealand's first dig, in which a batsman managed to get on top for a significant period of time rather than merely toughing it out.
But we'll stick with a bet on New Zealand to level the series at a ground where England have been thrashed in two of their last three and may well have lost to South Africa last year were it not for a genius 149 from Pietersen.