Free cricket betting preview and tips: New Zealand v England second Test

Joe Denly is fancied to fire for England
Joe Denly is fancied to fire for England

England head to Hamilton for the second and final Test against New Zealand needing victory to square the series - read Richard Mann's betting preview here.

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2pts Joe Denly to make a first innings fifty at 11/5


A thumping defeat for England in the series opener at the Bay Oval has put the spotlight back on Joe Root's captaincy and failure to square the series in the second and final Test in Hamilton could leave the Yorkshireman walking on a tightrope ahead of the forthcoming tour of South Africa.

While Root will be left frustrated at the lack of progress made by the Test team in the last 24 months, for all there have been sporadic moments of real promise on a number of occasions, the biggest concern for him will be his own form with the bat.

Root's Test average before taking over as captain sat at an impressive 52.80, putting him alongside the likes of Virat Kohli, Steve Smith and Kane Williamson, but his average since taking over from Sir Alastair Cook is now below 40 and since the beginning of 2019, it dips down to a very modest 27.4.

Having spent last summer toiling against the excellent Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, the former targeting his off stump with late outswing and the latter pinning his man to the crease with steep pounce before looking for the lbw dismissal by bringing the ball back in off the seam, Root is beginning to look weary.

An autumn spent tinkering with his technique appears to have done little for his confidence and he looked a long way from his best when making scores of 2 and 11 in the first Test.

Root's struggles with the bat have been compounded with the continued question marks over his captaincy - Australia skipper Tim Paine regularly outpointed him last summer - and his management of Jofra Archer remains a bone of contention.

Jofra Archer in Ashes Test action for England against Australia
Jofra Archer

With James Anderson still absent - Root has been shorn of his bowling trump card since the tour of the Caribbean back in the spring - and Archer's failure to fire at the Bay Oval, England's attack suddenly looks moderate without the trusty Dukes ball to call upon.

Stuart Broad was down on pace and with very little lateral movement on offer on a flat pitch sitting under glorious blue skies, he began to look his age while Jack Leach has yet to prove he is the answer to England's spin bowling problems.

That said, while the bowling attack suddenly finds itself in the spotlight and the batting again failed to capitalise on a strong start in the first innings, it shouldn't be forgotten that this England side have made a habit of bouncing back when their captain needs a performance from his players most.

Think back to the summer when Australia had retained the Ashes at Old Trafford and Root again saw his position questioned; England arrived at The Oval for the series finale with the bit between their teeth and produced a strong and resolute performance to level the series, Ben Stokes subsequently offering an emphatic endorsement of Root's captaincy at the post-match presentation.

Stokes and his colleagues will know their captain needs a reaction again this week but New Zealand might not be as generous as Paine was when inviting England to bat first at The Oval, though an injury to Trent Boult is a big blow to the hosts.

Boult didn't make headlines in the first Test but he has caused England plenty of problems in past meetings between the two sides, including when taking 15 wickets against the tourists in 2018, and either Matt Henry or Lockie Ferguson will have big shoes to fill.

Wickets for Tim Southee and a second innings, five-wicket haul for Neil Wagner in the first Test suggests England's batsmen will still have plenty to fear and having put the latter up for top New Zealand bowling honours at 7/1 in the my series preview here, I certainly hope he can come to the fore again.

Celebrations for Neil Wagner (right) and BJ Watling against England in the first Test
Celebrations for Neil Wagner (right) and BJ Watling against England in the first Test

As ever, Wagner can be expected to excel when the wicket is flat and demands his awkward bouncer and bustling left-arm pace to force breakthroughs, and the second innings could again be the time to catch him.

Another who has given this column plenty of hope is BJ Watling, Man of the Match first time around thanks to his marvellous double century and a 12/1 selection for New Zealand batsman in the aforementioned series preview.

An unflappable character who can always be relied upon in a crisis, Watling won't change a thing this week but England surely need to bowl fuller to him when given the chance, as opposed to allowing him to punch his way through the off side off the back foot and pick off the bowlers when they stray too straight.

Fingers crossed he can finish the job and I'm not sure quotes of 8/1 for him to again oblige in the top New Zealand first innings batsman market quite do his chances justice.

Once more, all eyes will be on Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson but, as well as he played for his half-century in the first innings at the Bay Oval, there are still concerns surrounding his fitness and all things considered, I'm happy to leave this market alone with so much riding on Watling.

There is a bet to be struck, however, with Joe Denly looking well worth a play at 11/5 to make a first-innings fifty.

After taking a little time to adjust to the demands of Test cricket, Denly has quickly become one of the pillars of England's battling line-up, manfully switching between number three and number four in the order before being asked to open the batting at the end of last summer.

Joe Denly on the charge for England
Joe Denly on the charge for England

Despite such unfair demands, Denly ended the Ashes by making fifties in each of the last three Tests, including a fine 94 at The Oval where he came so close to a deserved first international hundred.

Scores of 74 and 35 in the series opener here confirm that he continues to go from strength to strength, finally offering hope that England might have found an answer to their troublesome number three conundrum, and I thought he was unlucky in both innings, a fine outswinger from Southee proving his undoing first time around before a brutish steepler from Wanger ended his stoic resistance on day five.

While Denly's search for a maiden Test hundred slightly puts me off taking the 7/1 on offer for him to be England's top first innings runscorer, 11/5 for him to register his fifth half-century in as many matches looks fair, especially with the absence of Boult's dangerous left-arm inswing a definite plus for a batsman who can be troubled when the ball is shaped back into him.

Posted at 1645 GMT on 26/11/19.

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