Bangladesh in New Zealand Test Series 2017, Second Test Preview

The Black Caps, the Tigers, and cricket fans will all be on the same side for the Second Test, their adversary: the Christchurch weather. It is forecast to rain on at least three of the five days of the Test, and anyone who has lived in the Garden City knows that this could mean anything from five days of blazing sun to five days of hammering down.

BetFair doesn’t seem too concerned about the possibility of the Draw, though. At time of writing this was paying $6.60.

On the face of it, this looks very high when you consider that the first two innings of the First Test went for over 1,100 runs for only 18 wickets. In fact, at Tea on the fourth day, the Draw was paying a mere $1.05, and the majority of cricket fans were astonished by how rapidly the second Bangladeshi innings fell apart from that point.

Probably the market is anticipating that Bangladesh will have difficulty replicating their batting feats of the first innings in Wellington – after all, Bangladeshi batsmen cannot break the record for their nation’s highest ever Test score every match, as Shakib al Hasan did with his superb 217 from 276 balls.

The Black Caps are paying $1.26, which is very marginal value at best.

Although they showed in Wellington that any of Tom Latham, Kane Williamson or Ross Taylor can play a matchwinning innings, it’s doubtful whether the Black Caps have the firepower with the ball to justify accepting a margin of twenty-six cents in the dollar.

The Black Caps bowlers may have knocked the Tigers out for 160 in their second innings, but aside from skilled bowling from Mitchell Santner, and Neil Wagner setting up Mominul Haque, this was mostly due to poor shot selection and being injured by the ball.

Certainly there is motivation for Tim Southee to bowl well in Christchurch because his claim to a spot in the team is arguably more tenuous than anyone else beside Henry Nicholls.

With match figures of 3 for 192 in Wellington, and with an average of 36 at a strike rate of 70 since the start of 2015, he will have to improve to keep the next generation of strike bowlers from replacing him in the first choice side.

Bangladesh are paying $16.50 at time of writing, which appears good value but not as good as the Draw. They were paying $24 before the First Test so the market has taken account of how impressive they were.

Taskin Ahmed was impressive without reward with the new ball on debut, suggesting that much of his promise in the shorter forms will carry over to Tests once he makes the adjustment. He may have only got one wicket but it was Williamson with a delivery of excellent line and length, and if a bowler can dismiss Williamson he can dismiss anyone.

Subashis Roy, the other debutant, did not have an action that suggested he would be dangerous but he did pick up 3 for 121, very good figures in the context of a defeat of this magnitude.

The main difficulty for Bangladesh is that – although Mominul Haque and al Hasan are a match for the Black Caps bowlers with the bat – Williamson, Taylor and arguably even Latham and BJ Watling outclass with the bat anything the Tigers can put forward with the ball.

So – as was amply demonstrated in Wellington – the Tigers may have the potential to put up a huge innings on occasion but probably lack the firepower to break the Black Caps defences twice themselves.

Certainly with regular captain Mushfiqur Rahim out injured for the second Test, the Bangladeshi men of silver will be having nightmares about how to get Kane Williamson out twice. Williamson was dismissed once in Wellington for the McCullumesque match return of 157 runs from 145 balls.

Considering that there are very few match outcomes that could result in the Black Caps being shorter than $1.26 at the end of the first day, the optimal betting strategy might be to lay the Black Caps before the start of play. In doing so, you will be in a position to cash in on both the possibility of rain and of a large first innings from Bangladesh.

This bet will very likely have value until at least late in the fourth day, given the fact that the batsmen in both teams are collectively more skilled than the bowlers in both teams.

The trader may also wish to consider that in the previous Test at this venue, the Black Caps lost Latham, Williamson and Taylor for a total of 16 runs in the first innings – and still won by eight wickets. So if the rain does not play a role there may well be a result.

Bangladesh in New Zealand Test Series 2017, First Test Preview

Facing Trent Boult on a green wicket in Wellington promises to be daunting challenge for the Bangladeshi top order

Bangladesh are currently paying $24 on BetFair to win the First Test of their 2017 tour to New Zealand, beginning tomorrow in Wellington. New Zealand are so heavily favoured that if Bangladesh can manage so much as a draw it pays $6.60.

On the surface of things, there are few areas in which Bangladesh have an advantage over New Zealand.

The Black Caps top order is looking as composed as it ever has done. Jeet Raval may have only played two Tests but across those two he averages 49.33, with two fifties and a not out. By the standards of Black Caps openers since Richardson, that’s as promising as anyone apart from Tom Latham.

Latham, Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor comprise the rest of the top order, and one would have to go back as far as John Wright, Andrew Jones and Martin Crowe to find an equivalent solidity.

In the middle order things are not as certain. If Henry Nicholls cannot impress at No. 5 soon, he might have to return to domestic cricket for a spell while one of the next generation has a turn at trying to fill the Brendon McCullum-sized hole.

Colin de Grandhomme has, like Raval, only played two Tests but he has also looked solid, averaging 32, and also has a strong first-class record. Even though Watling at 7 is a solid pick, the overall feel of the Black Caps middle order is far from settled.

The pitch at the Basin Reserve is expected to be unusually green, which means that Trent Boult and Tim Southee can be expected to pose a considerable danger. In an odd quirk, Boult (12) and Southee (13) are, with Neil Wagner at 11th, grouped together on the ICC Test bowling rankings.

The Bangladeshi batting will depend heavily on certain key players, and if the Black Caps can get a couple of them early they will back themselves to roll the visitors, on a green wicket, for very little.

Although the spine of the Bangladeshi side is much stronger than it has been in recent years, few would expect it to stand strong against the Black Caps’ heavy artillery on a green track.

Opener Tamim Iqbal is the highest ranked of the Bangladeshi bastmen, at 22nd. An opener averaging 40 is an impressive asset for a side of Bangladesh’s reputation, and perhaps the foremost way that the Tigers could claim to have an advantage over their opposite numbers.

With a probable 4-5-6-7 of Mahmudullah, Shakib al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim and Sabbir Rahman, the Bangladeshi middle order is a fairly battle-hardened unit. All four of these batsmen are, if not intimidating, skilled enough to make the Black Caps pay for any errors.

The major disadvantage that the Tigers will have is a bowling attack highly unsuited to the conditions they will face in Wellington. Shakib al Hasan may be ranked 2nd of all the allrounders in Tests, but his gentle left-arm spin will pose far less of a threat at the Basin Reserve than in Bangladesh.

If Bangladesh are to win, it will almost certainly take a handful of good spells from Taskin Ahmed, who with an ODI strike rate of 29 is growing into a strike weapon in the shorter form of the game, or from his expected new ball partner Subashis Roy, about who very little is known apart from a respectable first class average of 28.

The best hope for an interesting match might be for Bangladesh to win the toss and put the Black Caps in on a green wicket tomorrow morning, then to ambush the top order with their debutant new ball pair and get into the soft middle order before lunch.

Is Ross Taylor the Most Underrated Kiwi Sportsman of All Time?

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Last month, the Black Caps cruised to a 2-0 series win against Pakistan in New Zealand, the first series win against the side in over 30 years. The Second Test was notable for involving yet another Ross Taylor century, this one an unbeaten 102 which was also the only century of the series.

Let’s get one thing out of the way first – it’s obvious that the most underrated sportsman in New Zealand could not possibly be a rugby player, and the other sports apart from cricket are either not popular enough for dominance in them to be meaningful (union, league, hockey, netball) or they are sports in which no Kiwis are any good (soccer, volleyball, tennis, golf). So cricket it is.

Taylor, who has been mentored by none other than Martin Crowe, has also taken after Crowe in terms of statistical dependency. Taylor has now played 78 Tests to Crowe’s 77, and the rest of their statistics are also strikingly similar.

Crowe ended his career with a test average of 45.36; Taylor is currently on 46.70. Crowe managed 17 tons in his Test career; Taylor has played one more match for one ton fewer. And both players favoured the No. 4 position – in 106 innings there Crowe averaged 49.39; Taylor has batted 4 on 123 occasions for an average of 49.99.

Their Test strike rates are very different: Taylor has 59.17 compared to Crowe’s 44.65. Taylor has also been part of a generally stronger side – he has enjoyed 23 Test wins compared to Crowe’s 16.

Considering that Martin Crowe has a place in the popular consciousness as New Zealand’s second-best cricketer ever, the fact that Taylor can match him on the numbers is enough to suggest that he belongs, like Crowe, Sir Richard Hadlee, Chris Cairns, Shane Bond and Kane Williamson, in any conversation about the very best.

Moreover, Taylor isn’t finished yet. He has been much more fortunate with injuries than Crowe, and could well end up playing 100 Tests. Since he keeps getting better with age – under Williamson’s captaincy Taylor averages 52.27 in 16 ODIs and 70.75 in 8 Tests – and is not yet 33, Taylor could cement his spot in the pantheon.

Some of what Taylor has already achieved goes well beyond what one might expect of a merely excellent batsman. A handful of selected career highlights:

1. 290 in Australia, the highest ever score by a visiting batsman in Australia in Test history. The craziest thing about this innings is that it didn’t end with a feather to the keeper or to swing, seam, drift, tweak or rip, but with a slog to square leg because that was the match situation. Selfless.

2. 154 not out in Manchester, in a match where England, who scored only 202 in the second innings, still won the match. Coming eight years before the 290 in Perth, this innings helps demonstrate that New Zealand has definitely got their money’s worth out of picking Taylor.

3. Taylor has an ODI average of 43.15, which is higher than all of Ricky Ponting (42.03), Kumar Sangakkara (41.98), Brian Lara (40.48) and Martin Crowe (38.55). What’s more, this is increasing – in Taylor’s last 100 ODI matches, dating back to 2010, he averages an astonishing 49.28.

4. A sequence of three consecutive ODI tons, one of only six batsmen in history to have achieved this.

5. Taylor easily has more international tons than any other Kiwi batsman – 31 (16 in 78 Tests and 15 in 176 ODIs). His closest rivals are Nathan Astle with 27, Kane Williamson with 22 and Martin Crowe with 21. Even Stephen Fleming, for so long New Zealand’s best batsman, managed a comparatively feeble 9 Test tons in 111 Tests and 8 ODI tons in 279 matches, about a third of Taylor’s century rate.

On top of all this, Taylor was a great batsman for several years when we had no-one else who was much good. Back in 2006, when Taylor made his ODI debut, McCullum was a floater, Astle and Fleming were past their best and we had no-one else.

Instead of coming in after Martin Guptill (averaging 42) and Kane Williamson (47), Taylor shared the top order with Lou Vincent (27), Hamish Marshall (27), James Marshall (25) and Craig McMillan (28). The statesmanlike Stephen Fleming was the best batsman in this side, and he averaged 32.

And Taylor has achieved all of these things while – and in this he is almost unheralded – playing in a sport that Samoans (Taylor’s mother is Samoan) generally don’t play. Taylor is himself aware of this, noting that most Polynesians choose to play a rugby code.

In this sense – straddling the European and the Polynesian worlds – Ross Taylor is the best possible kind of New Zealander. When he scores a ton and gives his pukana for the crowd and those watching on television, it’s symbolic of everything excellent about New Zealand. No-one who wasn’t a Kiwi could do what Taylor has done in the way that he has done it.

Given all of those accolades, it seems almost a formality to declare Taylor the most underrated Kiwi sportsman of all time.

The Future of Trans-Tasman Domestic Cricket

It’s perhaps fitting that cricket, the most traditional of all major sports in New Zealand, is the only one yet to jump on the Trans-Tasman bandwagon. League, union, netball and soccer all operate in Australian leagues at the highest domestic level. It seeems inevitable that the same will happen for cricket, so, what will it look like?

The concept of a Trans-Tasman domestic cricket league was a fantasist’s pipedream during the era of 50-over domestic cricket. But the idea has had new life ever since the advent of serious, high-quality, T20 domestic cricket.

Domestic cricket has hitherto had one immense hurdle, and that was the difficulty in getting punters to sit in a stadium for the duration of a cricket match when it wasn’t the top level of skill available. They will do it if the sport has matches of a shorter duration, and they will do it for long duration, top level cricket, but not long duration domestic cricket.

T20 fills both of those gaps. A domestic T20 match offers punters a chance to see a high level of cricket without making a time commitment of an entire day (or longer). The Indian Premier League has muscled into a space on the cricket calendar and it seems like it’s here to stay.

This column has taken the time to get caught up in some of the Big Bash League hype last summer. Frankly, it’s a very high level of cricket. Australia has to fit much more talent into a handful of domestic teams than the New Zealand system, and a consequence of this is a level of cricket somewhere between international level and New Zealand domestic level.

The BBL currently has eight teams, which corresponds to one team per two and a half to three million people. Probably, however, there are plans to expand, as the BBL is still in its infancy. If it is expanded to a similar size to the Trans-Tasman tournaments in other sports there would be room for two or three Kiwi teams in a league of 16 to 18.

Two might be difficult as the natural division into North and South Islands would leave a Northern team representing over three times the population of the Southern team.

Perhaps the best would be to divide New Zealand into North, Central and South. This would be very simple as it would mean Northern Districts and Auckland were North, Central Districts and Wellington were Central, and Canterbury and Otago were South.

Perhaps in the very long term we might end with a Super Rugby style arrangement of three Kiwi teams, seven Aussie teams for each state and five or six South African ones.

Three Kiwi T20 teams might leave us with something that looked like this. The Northern team isn’t far off international standard in its own right, but the other two are currently a fair bit weaker and might need to draft in overseas players to fill some gaps.

Northern:

1. Martin Guptill
2. Kane Williamson (c)
3. Dean Brownlie
4. BJ Watling (wk)
5. Corey Anderson
6. Colin Munro
7. Mitchell Santner
8. Tim Southee
9. Mitch McClenaghan
10. Lockie Ferguson
11. Trent Boult

Central:

1. Ben Smith
2. Ross Taylor (c)
3. Tom Bruce
4. Will Young
5. Tom Blundell
6. Luke Ronchi (wk)
7. Doug Bracewell
8. Josh Clarkson
9. Adam Milne
10. Ben Wheeler
11. Hamish Bennett

Southern:

1. Peter Fulton
2. Tom Latham (c)
3. Jimmy Neesham
4. Henry Nicholls
5. Derek de Boorder (wk)
6. Andy Ellis
7. Matt Henry
8. Neil Wagner
9. Kyle Jamieson
10. Josh Finnie
11. Ed Nuttall

Steve Smith a Colossus as Australia Win First ODI

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Steve Smith had the sort of day that all cricketers dream of. From the moment he won the toss and elected to bat it was his day. Smith scored 164 out of Australia’s total of 324/8, then he took a flying screamer of a catch to dismiss BJ Watling and Australia won by 68 runs.

New Zealand won the first session, with movement on the grassy Sydney Cricket Ground pitch inducing both Australian openers to chop on. They were in an excellent position at the fall of the fourth wicket, which came when a solid straight drive from Smith went through the hands of Jimmy Neesham and ran Mitchell Marsh out at the non-striker’s end. At that point Australia were 92/4 and it felt that only Smith stood between competitiveness and disaster.

He then embarked upon a 127-run stand with Travis Head, who was fortuitously dropped by Matt Henry at mid off early in his innings. When Head was brilliantly caught and bowled by Trent Boult, Matthew Wade joined him at the crease, and the two went on the counterattack.

They scored 83 runs in 6.1 overs, and even a flurry of wickets at the end couldn’t stop them from posting a very strong total, in this case 324/8.

Australia won the early session much like New Zealand had, accounting for Tom Latham and Kane Williamson for single-digit scores. Jimmy Neesham came in at 4 in place of Ross Taylor, and was able to hit through the line well, scoring 34 off 36.

Perhaps the decisive act in the match came again from Smith, only this time in the field. A short and wide ball from Marsh to BJ Watling was dispatched, but Smith threw himself to his left and caught the ball at full stretch on his thumb, taking a face plant into the SCG turf so as to not spill the ball.

From there it was up to Guptill, and while he and Munro put on a brisk 45 Guptill was dismissed against the run of play, slapping an Adam Zampa long hop to Glenn Maxwell at midwicket. Guptill had scored 114 from 102 balls and looked set for another titanic innings, timing almost everything out of the very middle, before the dismissal.

At that point New Zealand still needed 140 runs in 17 overs with 5 wickets in hand, but the run rate was accelerating out of range of their hitting power.

Colin Munro and Matt Henry gave the Black Caps some late hope, getting them to within 72 runs before Henry was deceived by a clever Pat Cummins slower ball, which he skied to George Bailey for 27 off 15. When Munro was next out in a very similar fashion for 49 off 59 the Black Caps were unable to offer further resistance and were dismissed for 256.

Despite the loss, New Zealand will take heart from the performance, and may be regretting the decision to not review an lbw shout on Smith when he was on 13. Replays showed the decision would have been overturned and from there it would have been a very different match.

In the end, the catching skill of Australia was probably the decisive factor, as a Watling-Guptill partnership at that time of the match might have brought the Black Caps very close to a win.

The series continues in Canberra on Tuesday.

The Answer to the Martin Guptill Question is Nathan Astle

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What do you do if you have a fantastically successful ODI opening batsman whose skillset is not particularly well suited to opening in Tests but on talent grounds alone cannot be left out of the Test side? There was an easy answer when the batsman in question was Nathan Astle 20 years ago.

The answer back then was simply to bat Astle at 5. Astle played 100 Test innings at 5 or lower, and averaged over 37 there. His most notable innings was the then fastest Test double century – 222 runs off only 168 balls.

Although the team that Astle came into in 1996 was far weaker than the one Martin Guptill is trying to break into, it seemed natural for the free-spirited, hard-hitting Astle to begin his career at 5.

Guptill never had the easy luxury of simply slotting into 5, mostly because Brendon McCullum had that spot nailed down and partly because the Black Caps were so desperate to find a decent opener that anyone with notable skill was thrown into the breach.

Nathan Astle averaged 34 with the bat in ODI cricket, and three runs more in Tests. Martin Guptill averages 42 in ODI cricket – three runs more would see him averaging 45. Moreover, Guptill’s world-class fielding adds at least five runs to his value per innings.

A value of fifty runs per innings at No. 5 might sound fanciful given the returns we have so far got from him opening the batting. It should be emphasised, however, that opening the batting in Tests is not only very different to opening in ODIs, it is also very different to batting further down the order, as the opening Test batsman faces a swinging ball, first-choice bowlers who are not tired and an aggressive field.

Although the sample size is very small, Guptill has already played 6 innings at No. 5 – and he averages 68 there.

The other medium-term options for the Black Caps at 5 are Henry Nicholls, who has so far been less impressive there than Guptill was at opener, a promoted allrounder such as Anderson, Neesham or Santner, or blooding a youngster such as Will Young or Tom Bruce.

Guptill at 5 would be better than all of those options. Leaving a player of his talent out of the side because he did not succeed in a role not suited for him, when there is a vacant role perfectly suited to him, is madness.

Black Caps in India 2016: Third Test Preview

holkarstadiumindore

After some doubt, it now looks like the Third Test between the Black Caps and India will proceed as planned, at Indore between 08 and 12 October. For the Black Caps, for whom the series is lost, this match is about putting into practice what has been learned from the first two Tests towards the goal of winning some respectability.

The Black Caps have not been poor on this tour. Far from it. Barring a disastrous Day 3 in the 1st Test and Day 2 in the second, they have been India’s equal.

In Kanpur, the Black Caps looked well ahead at the end of Day 2. In reply to India’s 318 they were 152/1. Day 3 was a disaster, losing 9 wickets for 110 and then letting India get to 159/1 by stumps.

Likewise in Kolkata. The Black Caps had India at 239/7 at the end of Day 1, but a horror Day 2 saw India put on 77 for their last 3 wickets and then get the Black Caps 128/7 at stumps. Although the Black Caps lost by almost 200 runs they did take 20 wickets, which is a good sign for a visiting team in India.

If the Black Caps can get through this third Test without such a horror day they could well win.

There’s a solution to the Martin Guptill problem. It’s called Nathan Astle. The dashing ODI opener was not even considered for a Test opening spot, despite being good enough to score 16 centuries in the shorter format. Astle began his serious Test batting career at 5 and stayed there.

Guptill has been unlucky because positions 3, 4 and 5 have been sewn up for years and so the only realistic option was to open. Now with Brendon McCullum no longer with the side, there is a gap at 5 that Guptill could potentially fill. Not only will an older red ball will behave a lot more like the white ball that he is used to batting against, but he is simply far too talented a batsman to leave out of the side just because he was not a great success as opener.

With a Test average of 25, Henry Nicholls probably hasn’t done enough to cement the No. 5 position, and with several impressive young bats coming through he might not get much of a chance. Nicholls’s technique might be more suited to the opening position, and his 76 against Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander with essentially a new ball in South Africa recently suggests that he has enough potential there to be worth a look.

With Trent Boult fully entrenched as The Black Caps’s premier paceman and with Neil Wagner, who at a bowling average of 29.63 has much better returns, it appears that Tim Southee is now competing with Matt Henry for that third seamer spot.

Matt Henry may rightly be ahead of Tim Southee now. One match with six wickets at 17.50 could be written off as lucky, but anyone watching the Second Test might well have remarked that Henry’s pitch map was much better than Southee’s, forcing the batsman to play much more and without the regular boundary balls.

Tom Latham seems to have difficulty concentrating past a certain point. He is building a Flemingesque record with an average of 38.38, 9 fifties and 5 centuries. Whether or not he can overcome this will determine if he can become a great opener along the lines of Richardson or Turner.

BetFair does not consider the Black Caps to have much of a chance: they are paying $6.20 to win at the exchange, compared to India’s $1.60 (the Draw is $4.60).

The Black Caps Tour of India, 2016

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The return of Jimmy Neesham to the Black Caps Test side, announced this week, might go some way towards filling the Brendon McCullum-sized hole at No. 5 as the Black Caps begin their tour of India later this month.

It’s very difficult to pick exactly what Black Caps side will take the field when the first Test begins in Kanpur on September 22.

For one reason, the bowling attack will likely be very different to that which played in Africa. The last time the Black Caps were in India they opened their World T20 campaign with a shock win over India themselves – and spinners took the first nine wickets (Santner 4, Sodhi 3, McCullum 2).

Gavin Larsen suggested that it was of value to the Black Caps side to have two seam-bowling allrounders in Neesham and Doug Bracewell. If both play, along with the expected two spinners, one of the regular pace trio of Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Neil Wagner will have to sit out.

Of interest is that the workhorse of the pace attack, Neil Wagner, is up to 9th place in the Test bowling rankings. This puts extreme pressure on Tim Southee’s position, as Trent Boult is generally considered the more dangerous of the new ball pair. Boult is also 10th on the rankings – Southee is a creditable but not compelling 15th.

If two of Santner, Craig and Sodhi play, there may be only room for one seam-bowling allrounder (likely Neesham) and two of the regular pace trio.

This is unless something changes with the batting. Although Martin Guptill might be the Black Cap with the most pressure on his spot, his primary challenger, Jeet Raval, has been dropped from the squad (along with Matt Henry). That probably means that Guptill will have the whole India tour to make good on the immense potential he has shown as an ODI batsman.

Henry Nicholls was not impressive in Zimbabwe, making only 18 and 15 and playing some rash shots. He didn’t get to bat in the first Test against South Africa. Then, in the second Test, under immense pressure from the strongest bowling trio in world cricket right now in Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada, he outscored even Kane Williamson, coming in at 3/5 in the fourth innings and losing Williamson soon after.

The promise shown against that world-class attack might be enough to dismiss talk of Neesham batting at 5 in order to strengthen the bowling options.

Also, because India at home with Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja is an incredibly difficult challenge right now, the logical thing to do might be to strengthen the batting.

It’s possible that we will see a team that looks like:

1. Latham
2. Guptill
3. Williamson (c)
4. Taylor
5. Nicholls
6. Neesham (2)
7. Watling (wk)
8. Santner (5)
9. Craig (4)
10. Wagner (3)
11. Boult (1)

Another Rain Affected Day Frustrates

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Third Day, First Test, Black Caps vs. South Africa in South Africa 2016

Rain destroyed the entire third day of the first Test between the Black Caps and South Africa.

By 2200 NZT, The BetFair odds heavily favoured the Draw. South Africa were paying $2.98, the Black Caps $15.50 and the Draw $1.59. Anyone who had money sitting on the Draw would have made a killing in this time.

By 0100 NZT, with it being clear that the day was to be washed out, South Africa were at $7.20, the Black Caps at $34.00 and the Draw in to $1.19.

– DAN McGLASHAN

Rain Spoils Absorbing Contest in Durban

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Second Day, First Test, Black Caps vs. South Africa in South Africa 2016

With South Africa 236/8 overnight, the BetFair market gradually came to the conclusion that the Black Caps were now the favourites leading into the second day of the first Test in Durban. South Africa drifted from $2.74 to $2.98 overnight, the Black Caps stayed the same ($2.88 to $2.92) and the Draw came in from $3.45 to $3.05, perhaps reflecting a bad weather forecast or the likelihood that bad light will take several overs of play time out of this match.

The opening session of the second day began with the new ball swinging around corners. Despite the assistance, the last wicket stand of Kagiso Rabada and Dane Piedt frustrated the New Zealanders, who were able to generate several edges that did not go to hand.

When Piedt was out caught at the wicket off a wider Boult delivery, with the partnership worth 27, the South African innings ended at 263. At this time it looked as if all three results were in play, with South Africa paying $2.98 and the Black Caps $3.30. 263 was not a big total but as the New Zealand seamers were swinging it viciously it looked as if conditions would be good for Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander with the ball.

They were – Steyn and Philander were at least as good as Boult was yesterday. Steyn accounted for both Latham and Guptill with superb bowling; Latham caught at slip and Guptill trapped in front.

A brief passage of intense cricket of the highest quality ensued as Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor fended off an arsenal of swing and seam trickery from Steyn and Philander, but rain intervened to spoil the day, which ended with New Zealand at 15/2.

At this point, South Africa was paying $2.44, New Zealand $6.40, and the Draw was the favourite, perhaps in anticipation of more rain, at $2.28.

– DAN McGLASHAN