Black Caps vs. Australia, Champions Trophy Pool Match Preview

Trent Boult demolished the Australian lower order the last time these two sides met in an ODI, taking 6-33. The Black Caps will need something similar to concede less than 350 against this strong Australian side

The Black Caps had mixed fortunes in the Champions Trophy warm-up matches, but that will all be forgotten when their first pool match starts, against World Cup final opponents Australia, this Friday at 9:30p.m. (NZT).

Australia is a solid favourite on BetFair to win this encounter in Birmingham. They are only paying $1.53 compared to $2.84 for the Black Caps.

The main reason for this is their superb bowling. Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood are both ranked in the top 5 of ODI bowlers at the moment, and they will have both Pat Cummins and James Pattinson backing them up.

Because Starc is capable of batting 8, Australia might be tempted to go with all four of them in the same side – which would make for an exceptionally fearsome ODI pace battery, one of the strongest ever. There would be no respite.

The Black Caps may have three of their best ever ODI batsmen in the top 4 – Martin Guptill, captain Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor, but question marks remain over Guptill’s opening partner and the middle order.

A number of players were tried in these positions in the warm-up matches and in the preceding tri-series against Ireland and Bangladesh. The difficulty is that there were no performances that will have forced the hand of the selectors.

Guptill will open with either Luke Ronchi or Tom Latham. The desire from the brains trust might be to favour the big-hitting Ronchi, because English surfaces in recent years have tended towards very big scores.

A variety of players have been recently tried in the Black Caps middle order. Neil Broom, Corey Anderson, Jimmy Neesham, Mitchell Santner and Colin de Grandhomme are all possibilities for the middle order and allrounder slots.

The Black Caps bowling unit, however, is easy to select. The tried and true combination of Trent Boult (ranked 6th in the world for ODIs) and Tim Southee will no doubt share the new ball, and it’s likely that Mitchell McClenaghan will be in as third seamer.

McClenaghan’s T20 experience will help to lend him skills that are useful in death bowling, and he has been talked about in that role in particular. This should see him take the spot ahead of Adam Milne, who is improving rapidly but still lacks the knockout punch of the more established seamers.

The three seamers will be complimented by Mitchell Santner, whose relentless accuracy and subtle variations have seen him rise into the top 10 of ODI bowlers for the first time.

The Black Caps bowling strategy will be to take two or three poles early with the moving ball, and then to at least restrict the scoring in the middle overs with Santner and the variations of either McClenaghan or Milne.

This will lessen the potential impact of the Australians’ big middle order hitters like Chris Lynn, Travis Head, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis and Matthew Wade.

The Australian batting lineup appears to be following the general ODI zeitgeist at the moment by being packed with hitters. Any of David Warner, Aaron Finch, Lynn, Head, Maxwell or Stoinis is capable of striking at well over 100 for as long as they can stay in.

Their strategy will probably be to use Steve Smith at 3 as the fulcrum around which the other batsmen can hit. If Smith can stay in long enough then the others around him can throw the bat and Australia will post a colossal score.

Considering that 300 has been a par score in England recently even for average sides, this match between the two World Cup finalists has the potential to see 700+ runs scored.

The winner of it will have the box seat in qualifying from this group, as they will probably then only have to beat Bangladesh in order to advance to the semifinals.

Did Richie McCaw Destroy International Rugby?

The Sydney Bledisloe Cup match of 2000 was a high water mark in international rugby. In front of 109,000 people, the world champion Australia team and the desperate, wounded All Blacks fought to the death like Ali and Frazier. Many who saw it said at the time it was the most extraordinary rugby match ever played, with an iconic match-winning performance from none other than Jonah Lomu.

The All Blacks prevailed on that night, 39-35, but the Wallabies would win by one point three weeks later to retain the Bledisloe Cup, and at the time it seemed like the advent of professional rugby was about to make for a titanic era of contests for this trophy.

Professional rugby seemed like it was going to bring a lot of razzamatazz to the Southern Hemisphere circuit – Super Rugby was also huge that year. The ACT Brumbies topped the table at the end of the pool stages, and ended up losing the final at home against the Canterbury Crusaders by one point.

The next year, 2001, marked the Super Rugby debut, also for the Crusaders, of one Richie Hugh McCaw. As it turned out, McCaw was not so much a rugby player as a genius that played rugby.

He only played eight minutes of Super Rugby that year, but he did play a full NPC season, and was good enough to win selection to the All Blacks’ end of year tour, where he was handed a debut against Ireland, and promptly won Man of the Match.

The next year, 2002, McCaw became a Crusaders regular. In an odd echo of the future, the Crusaders won every single match that year, taking the Super Rugby title undefeated – something never achieved before or since.

2003 might have been the end of the golden summer for Australian rugby. They lost the Bledisloe Cup, but managed to knock the All Blacks out of the World Cup, going on to take an all-conquering England team to extra time in the final.

Come 2017, and Australia has not won the Bledisloe Cup since. Richie McCaw may have retired two years ago, but in the same way that Mansa Musa’s pilgrimage to Mecca depressed the price of gold in the Middle East for decades afterwards, McCaw’s decade of almost total dominance still depresses Australian rugby.

This year’s Super Rugby table makes for confusing reading. The current leaders of the Australian conference, the Brumbies, have fewer tournament points than the current wooden spooners of the New Zealand conference, the Blues.

New Zealand rugby is so dominant that the 4th-ranked Kiwi team, the Highlanders, has only lost three games all season. Despite this, they can’t climb any higher than 4th because the Hurricanes have only lost two, the Chiefs one and the Crusaders zero.

Even worse is the effect this dominance has had on the Internet rhetoric. At the turn of the century, trans-Tasman rugby banter was between equals. In recent years, however, it has taken a darker turn: the prison rape metaphor, once only applied to descriptions of All Blacks matches against the hapless Celts, crept into summaries of Bledisloe matches.

At its nadir, the Internet rhetoric was entirely based on the degree of sexual impotence the Australian players and fans would suffer as a consequence of the losses and for how many years afterwards. The jokes were that the children of Australian players would be too ashamed to admit their paternity to their classmates.

So the question is this: was Richie McCaw so good at rugby that he actually destroyed the international game? Did he set standards so high that all other nations just gave up on hoping to ever match them?

Probably not. After all, Australia made it to the World Cup final in 2015, and they did about as well there as any other side could have hoped to have done – namely, a loss by a two-try margin.

Alexander the Great died at age 33, and within months of the same age Richie McCaw retired from international rugby. The struggle for a successor to Alexander saw his empire shatter into four pieces and then to further disintegrate.

Kieran Read now leads the All Blacks, and his side might play the role of the Seleucid Empire, the early favourites to recreate the total world domination that McCaw once achieved.

However, no order can exist indefinitely, and it is in the nature of peaks to erode into valleys. The standards set by McCaw are unlikely to be maintained for the simple reason that the men tasked with doing so will not possess McCaw’s genius.

This column believes that it is in the Australian nature, despite a decade of denial, to recognise the smell of blood at the first opportunity and to take advantage of it. Therefore, it predicts that the current sorry state of Australian rugby will not last for much longer.

And as long as one side can stand up to the All Blacks the others will always believe themselves to have a hope.

An Essay Concerning Who Ought to Take the Crease at the Fall of a Wicket in T20s

When ODI cricket was invented, it took players, coaches and strategists a while to adapt to the fact that they were no longer playing Test cricket. For example, the fact that 220/3 after 50 overs is great in Tests and terrible in ODIs was not immediately appreciated.

The first ever Cricket World Cup match was famously marred by an innings of 36 off 174 balls from Sunil Gavasakar, who went on to state that “I wasn’t overjoyed at the prospect of playing non-cricketing shots and I just got into a mental rut after that.”

Gavaskar’s Test record shows that he was an exceptionally capable batsman, so the initial adjustment to such concepts as “scoreboard pressure” and “required run rate” must have been a big one, and a psychological one.

It was solved when it was realised that strike rate is about as important as average runs scored for an ODI batsman, especially the closer the game gets to the last over.

T20 cricket is still new enough that original plays are still being thought up. Every year there are new innovations, or new variations on old ones. Some concepts have to be abandoned, some concepts have to be tweaked, and some concepts have to be synthesised out of wordless intuition and perception.

This essay suggests one radical concept: that we need to do away with the old concept of batting order, and to replace it with a batting dynamic.

The major advantage of thinking in terms of a batting dynamic is that it would help the Black Caps find a place in the T20 side for Ross Taylor, who is simply too good to be left out.

A batting dynamic means no longer having a batting order in terms of openers, a first drop, a middle order etc. It means (to simplify it) to have one accumulator and one hitter at the crease at all times.

The reasons for this are mathematical. It’s better to have one accumulator than two hitters, because the hitters can lose wickets in clumps very easily and cripple the team. But it’s better to have one hitter than two accumulators, because you only have 20 overs and batting too slowly will lose you the game just as surely as losing a pile of wickets.

It’s best to consider these to be entirely separate skills – which they are, until the real slog of the last few overs.

The Black Caps have made it to No. 1 in the world T20 rankings partially by opening the batting with who are at time of writing both in the top 8 in the world – Kane Williamson at 3 and Martin Guptill at 8.

In doing so, they have a world-class accumulator in Williamson and a world-class hitter in Guptill, so all is good.

The problems arise when the first wicket falls.

Under the old concept of a batting order, this wouldn’t matter much, as it seldom does in Tests and hardly matters in ODIs.

But when the first wicket falls in a Black Caps T20 innings, the team runs the risk of making two mistakes, namely having two accumulators or two hitters at the crease.

The concept of a batting dynamic means that we divide the batsmen into accumulators and hitters, and that we try not to have two of both until the last few overs when everyone hits.

So for the T20 side, one might open with Kane Williamson and Martin Guptill, with Williamson the designated accumulator and Guptill the designated hitter.

If Williamson is dismissed early, we send Ross Taylor in. This way, it becomes less likely that the opposition will run through our lineup, as happened in February this year.

Conversely, if Guptill is dismissed first, the next hitter in line comes in to bat – perhaps Colin Munro, Corey Anderson, Tom Bruce, Colin de Grandhomme or even Tim Southee.

It doesn’t matter who it is, as long as they have a licence to hit, because the emphasis is on avoiding having two accumulators at the crease. This way we can avoid burning through the overs while scoring too few boundaries and using up our 20 with piles of wickets in hand.

So if Kane Williamson carries his bat, then Ross Taylor will not take the crease until all the other hitters are out. This means that Taylor could bat anywhere between 3 and 7 depending on the hitting ability of the other batsmen and when Williamson is dismissed.

But if Williamson is out on the first ball then Taylor comes in to ensure that the strike is always rotated to the hitter at the other end.

The worst case scenario (besides being bowled out) is that all our hitters get dismissed and we’re left with Williamson and Taylor to finish the innings. Obviously this is still an excellent outcome.

The other point is that if we aim to always have one of Williamson or Taylor at the crease until the death (let’s say until the 15th over at least), then the choice of the other batsmen in the team becomes much more straight-forward: they can simply all be hitters, as it’s very unlikely that Williamson and Taylor will both get out early.

Statistically, one would expect this to have the effect of causing the Black Caps to win by smaller margins, but to win more games, as the variance of the scores will be reduced if there are fewer hit-and-miss batsmen at the crease.

– DAN McGLASHAN

A Look at the Black Caps Squad For The Champions Trophy

The Black Caps squad for June’s Champions Trophy has been announced. The full squad is: Kane Williamson (c), Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Neil Broom, Colin de Grandhomme, Martin Guptill, Tom Latham, Mitch McClenaghan, Adam Milne, Jimmy Neesham, Jeetan Patel, Luke Ronchi, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee and Ross Taylor.

The Black Caps have a tough group to get out of. They must qualify in the top two of the pool to progress, and their group of four contains world champions Australia, home favourites England, and giant-killers Bangladesh. Finishing last is a realistic possibility.

Matt Henry might be the big omission from the squad. Over his 30-match career Henry has 58 wickets at 25.10, which makes the case for his inclusion about as compelling as the case for Trent Boult before the 2015 CWC. It is certainly a significantly better record than any of McClenaghan, Milne and even Southee.

Despite this, the Black Caps pace battery will be very strong. It looks as though the pace bowling attack will be based around Trent Boult (as could be expected up until the 2023 CWC), with Adam Milne returning to his pre-CWC injury third seamer role and one of McClenaghan or Southee sharing the new ball.

Adam Milne has the potential to be a tremendous bowler, as he has both the pace and accuracy. All he needs to learn is the subtlety that divides the cricket master from the journeyman and New Zealand will have another weapon in the bag.

Mitch McClenaghan has surprised a lot of people and continues to do so. He has been excellent for the Mumbai Indians in this season’s IPL and the Black Caps selection panel appears to believe that this white-ball success will translate well to English conditions.

English conditions will also suit the tricky Tim Southee. So in all cases, Kane Williamson knows he has 30 overs of top-drawer pace bowling available to him.

The Guptill-Williamson-Taylor axis comprises three of New Zealand’s best ODI batsmen ever and, if anything, these three players are better than the ones that took the Black Caps to a CWC final. So most of the top order picks itself.

Tom Latham is enduring a horror season with the bat, but he is still likely to open the batting alongside Guptill. His current average of just under 30 might make his place in the order look questionable, but with six Test centuries by age 25, his experience and skill against the new ball will be useful in English conditions with high levels of lateral movement.

The real selection questions are around the middle order.

The Black Caps are yet to find a dependable replacement for Grant Elliott, although the squad does include a number of possibilities. Neil Broom might be considered the front-runner for the position but Jimmy Neesham has recently been surprisingly good in the last batsman’s position.

Any number of players could take the allrounder’s position at 6. Probably the Black Caps will go with Corey Anderson, whose awful run with injuries seems to be over. Anderson, like McClenaghan, has been impressive in the IPL, and Williamson ought to be able to depend on him for four overs at least.

The other allrounder’s position at 7 is another open question. If Tom Latham opens the batting, there may be little advantage in choosing Luke Ronchi at 7, as Ronchi has been very poor with the bat for a long time and does not offer more than Latham with the gloves.

Mitchell Santner might have fallen out of favour slightly in the regard of the current set-up, and this could mean that Colin de Grandhomme takes his place as the bowling all-rounder, if the brains trust decides to go with Luke Ronchi at 7.

Given the strength of the top order with the bat, the smart thing to do might to pack the middle order with hard-hitting allrounders.

Likely team for the first match versus Australia on the 2nd of June, starting at 9.30p.m. New Zealand Time:

1. Martin Guptill
2. Tom Latham (wk)
3. Kane Williamson (c)
4. Ross Taylor
5. Neil Broom
6. Corey Anderson (5/6)
7. Colin de Grandhomme (5/6)
8. Mitchell Santner (4)
9. Mitchell McClenaghan (2)
10. Adam Milne (3)
11. Trent Boult (1)

South Africa in New Zealand 2017 Test Series Preview

Kagiso Rabada, at only 21 years of age, is considered one of the most likely to play an influential role in this series

The limited overs leg of the 2017 South Africa tour of New Zealand was a close-fought contest that ended in South Africa’s favour. As the limited overs game is New Zealand’s strong suit, that means that the South Africans will take the ascendancy into the three-match Test series beginning tomorrow in Dunedin.

South Africa are ranked No. 3 in the world and the Black Caps No. 5. This might not be a large gap but the market is much more confident of a South Africa win. The Proteas are paying only $2.24 on BetFair to win the First Test, compared to the Black Caps paying $3.70 and the Draw $3.60.

The Black Caps will not fondly recall the disappointment from when these two sides last met in Tests – the two match series in South Africa last August. The First Test was ruined by rain and the Second saw the Black Caps at one stage 4 down for 7 runs before a respectable, if futile, rearguard from Henry Nicholls.

Since then, the Black Caps have demolished both Pakistan and Bangladesh at home. Although South Africa will be tougher than either of those two Asian sides in New Zealand conditions, the Black Caps’ home advantage should make this series more interesting than the previous encounter in South Africa last August.

If one makes the assumption that Tom Latham’s poor recent ODI form will not carry over into the Test arena, then the Black Caps top order looks as solid as it ever has been.

They will have the highest ranked Test batsman on display for either side, in Kane Williamson at 4th. His returns in the past year have been good but mediocre by his high standards and he would like to play a defining innings against the South Africans.

Ross Taylor at 15th and Tom Latham at 26th, with Jeet Raval looking solid in his limited opportunities so far, make it a respectable, if far from intimidating, Black Caps top order.

They will not be favoured to dominate the South African bowling attack, though, even in the absence of Dale Steyn. The 21-year old Kagiso Rabada had barely had time to find his feet but has already risen to 5th in the Test bowling rankings, with two five-wicket hauls in only 14 Tests.

He will likely open the bowling with Vernon Philander, who averages 21.40 with the ball over 40 Tests. In terms of bowling average, at least, it will be easily the most formidable opening bowling pair the Black Caps have faced since their last series against South Africa.

They also have Morne Morkel, whose height and bounce pose a threat that New Zealand batsmen rarely face, and an almost total unknown in left-arm orthodox Keshav Maharaj.

The Black Caps have no real bowling spearheads but are capable of sustained pressure. Neil Wagner, Trent Boult and Tim Southee occupy positions 11 to 13 on the Test bowling rankings table.

These three bowlers have proven themselves capable of hunting as a pack, and the variety of Wagner’s left-arm bouncer barrage, Boult’s left-arm swing and Southee’s right-arm seam should make it difficult for the South African batsmen to settle. It will also be interesting to see if Mitchell Santner can usefully transfer his tight ODI bowling into the Test arena.

The South African Test batting unit might not be as terrifying as it is in ODIs but it still poses a threat. They do not have AB de Villiers for this series but both of Hashim Amla and Quentin de Kock are ranked in the top 10 and either could play a matchwinning knock.

The Black Caps bowlers will back their bowling plans against the other batsmen like Faf du Plessis, Stephen Cook, Dean Elgar, JP Duminy and Temba Bavuma. None of the batsmen in South Africa’s second tier pose a particular threat but all are very good players. Even if the Black Caps pick up a string of wickets somewhere they will always have to work hard to get the rest.

A heavyweight South Africa side without their best two players and playing in foreign conditions over three Tests against a middle-of-the-pack Black Caps side hungry to make the top tier promises to be highly competitive cricket. This column is guessing the most likely outcome to be a two-one win to South Africa or a one-all draw.

Should There be an ODI Tri-Nations?

ODI tournament cricket involving Australia, South Africa and New Zealand has been at the highest standard for all of this century – time to make it a permanent fixture?

There seems to be a paradigm shift going on in the world of international cricket at the moment. The rise of T20 cricket and international T20 leagues has revolutionised viewing patterns and brought tens of millions of new fans to the game.

This essay suggests a change that, although it should be welcome, is a bit more humble: making a ODI tri-nations involving Australia, South Africa and New Zealand into a regular fixture.

It hasn’t been feasible to suggest such a thing previously because the Black Caps have not previously been up to the extremely high standards set by South Africa and Australia (apart from South Africa’s generally poor showing in Cricket World Cups).

But now it seems like the Black Caps can hold their own against both of those other sides in ODIs, and will be able to for the forseeable future, making a tri-nations a legitimate contest.

There are many strong parallels between this idea and the already proven successful concept of doing exactly the same thing in rugby.

For one, there are very close cultural links between the three countries. All three are children of the British Empire, all play cricket, rugby, hockey, all speak English etc. For decades there has been considerable immigration between the three countries.

That was the logic that led to the advent of the Tri Nations rugby tournament. This proved to be a roaring success, as there was a consistent demand to see a regular, high-quality, competitive tournament.

The Chappell-Hadlee ODI series cup played between Australia and New Zealand has also been a success, with the name of the tournament becoming a byword for close and exciting games. This would naturally fall under the ambit of this tri-nations in the same way the Bledisloe Cup fell under the ambit of the rugby Tri Nations.

The current South Africa-Black Caps ODI series has become a seesaw grudge match because of the excellence of both sides and because of feelings of unfinished business around South Africa’s loss in the CWC semifinal at Eden Park in 2015.

And cricket fans around the world know that Australia versus South Africa is the matchup most likely to pose the greatest test of skill now and in the near future at least.

So all three ingredients in this mix are high-grade.

There is already a precedent for this kind of thing – the Australians regularly play ODI tri-series with two visiting teams (or even Australia A), and there has even been one iteration when the visiting teams were South Africa and New Zealand – and it was by all accounts an excellent series (but not for Steve Waugh, who was replaced by Ricky Ponting as ODI captain in the wake of Australia’s defeat).

If Australia were to host it permanently or semi-permanently on the grounds that they would get by far the best crowds, they could arrange to play either New Zealand or South Africa in a Test series either before or after the tri-nations, smoothing the logistic arrangements.

With international cricket undergoing many changes at the moment, it’s possible that a regular fixture like this might gain in popularity as it develops a history and established rivalry.

South Africa in New Zealand 2017 Limited Overs Series Preview

The theme of revenge for South Africa’s 2015 Cricket World Cup semifinal loss to the Black Caps has been well established. The Proteas came to Auckland with every reason to think they had what it took to seize a place in the World Cup final, but were denied at the last moment.

The Limited Overs leg of this year’s tour begins tomorrow and involves six matches. For South Africa there might be something of the 2015 World Cup about it, as the final match is, once again, at Eden Park.

The leg begins with a T20, also at Eden Park. Much of the interest in the T20 revolves about the late call-up of prodigious Auckland talent Glenn Phillips, who is replacing the injured Martin Guptill.

The 20-year old Phillips is already being talked about as a talent on the order of Kane Williamson and Tom Latham. In last year’s Super Smash he scored 369 runs at an average of 46 and a strike rate of 143, including one century scored at a strike rate of 200.

That is the sort of hitting the Black Caps will need at the top if they are to find an adequate replacement for Guptill. In limited overs matches the Black Caps know that if Guptill goes big, they win, because his striking ability is unmatched.

New Zealand sit comfortably on top of the current world T20I rankings, with South Africa at fourth. It’s almost exactly the other way around in the ODIs, with South Africa ranked at the top and the Black Caps third.

Despite that, the Black Caps are currently paying $2.34 on BetFair to win the T20, so there appears to be some value there.

The South African batting features four of the top ranked seven batsmen in the world at the moment, in AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla and Quentin de Kock. With any four of those players capable of a matchwinning innings, that makes the Proteas top order arguably the strongest ODI top order that has ever come to these shores.

The Black Caps, for their part, have a diverse and highly skilled array of artillery to break through this. But barring Trent Boult, who is currently ranked the No. 2 ODI bowler, none of them can rightly be said to be at the same skill level as the South African batting lineup.

Although there is much to choose from out of Matt Henry, Tim Southee, Lockie Ferguson, Mitchell McClenaghan and Adam Milne (the latter two returning from injury), none of those names pose the known and established threat that Boult does.

Probably the Black Caps will pick Trent Boult, one of the two speedsters (likely to be Ferguson who is in the squad ahead of Milne) and the other spot will be decided by who is best for the conditions out of Henry and Southee.

Ish Sodhi will also be back in case the Black Caps decide to try and strangle the South Africans with the spin of Sodhi, Mitchell Santner and perhaps even Williamson. If the seamers end up getting dominated by the superb Proteas batsmen, expect a wholesale shift to Plan B: strangle by spin.

The South African bowling unit would generally back itself to defend the large totals their batsmen would expect to put up. They have the No. 1 ranked ODI bowler in Imran Tahir, and the ever-more impressive Kagiso Rabada, who is ranked equal with Matt Henry at 7.

Rabada ought to find New Zealand pitches to his liking, with his Courtney Walsh-style action a test of any batsman’s technique. Chris Morris might be hard to get away but Wayne Parnell, JP Duminy and Andile Phehlukwayo will not be names the Black Caps batsmen are afraid of.

Dean Brownlie scored an excellent 63 in the Black Caps’ Hadlee-Chappell winning effort in their last ODI against Australia, and he has been selected to open in place of Guptill for the first two ODIs (Guptill is expected to be fit for the third).

The rest of the Black Caps top order looks very strong, with Latham, Williamson and Ross Taylor making up the remainder. With Luke Ronchi back in the ODI squad there is plenty of middle order hitting power as well.

Expect a high-scoring series in stark contrast to the recent Hadlee-Chappell, as both South Africa and the Black Caps have considerably stronger batting lineups than they do bowling attacks. It is, however, likely to be close, with a 3-2 win to the Proteas probably the slight favourite over a 3-2 to the Black Caps.

Can This Black Caps Side Take The World No. 1 ODI Ranking?

In winning the Hadlee-Chappell series 2-0, the Black Caps have defeated the Australian side twice in an ODI series in 12 months and moved to No. 3 in the official ODI rankings. This essay poses the question: can Kane Williamson’s side achieve something unprecedented in New Zealand ODI cricket history, and take the No. 1 spot?

The Black Caps have never achieved the distinction of being able to claim that they were the best ODI side in the world. At times we have come close. The current Black Caps ODI unit might have it in them to go the rest of the way.

Let’s look at the team with reference to the official ICC player rankings.

On these rankings the figure of 750 stands out as a benchmark for world-class performance. To achieve a score of 750 a player must consistently excel in comparison to their peers. It is a rare enough distinction that only six current batsmen have rating scores above 750.

Williamson had a score of 752 in January 2015, and in the two years since then has almost always stayed above that figure. If we compare his returns with that of Martin Crowe, we can see that Crowe was similar but generally below the 750 mark. Crowe, however, maintained his standard of between 700 and 750 for nine years.

In the extremely unlikely event that Williamson’s career peters out from this point, he would end up with a career ratings trajectory similar to that of Andrew Jones, who hit his peak at roughly the same time as Crowe.

Jones, who was like Williamson in that he was rock-solid at No. 3 but unlike him in that he was picked late for the Black Caps, maintained a rating above 750 for about four years.

Ross Taylor, widely regarded as the second-best bat in this current side, has maintained a Martin Crowe level of performance for the past three years, in which time he has also been between 700 and 750. He has averaged 55.89 with the bat in those last three years.

What the Black Caps of Jones and Crowe’s day didn’t have was a classy hitter at the top like Martin Guptill. Although Guptill was not world-class for the first part of his career, he got on top of his game about two years ago and since then has risen above 750. He averages over 50 in the 50 matches he has played since the start of 2015.

The Black Caps have long had a tradition of excellent ODI bowling, going all the way back to Sir Richard Hadlee, who was one of the best of all. At one point the Black Caps had the rare distinction of having three of the top five ODI bowlers, in Shane Bond, Daniel Vettori and Kyle Mills.

Vettori was the only one of those three to be truly world-class for a decent length of time – Bond suffered many problems with injury and Mills was not enough of a wicket threat to really be considered in that top bracket.

The most skilled Black Cap with the ball currently is Trent Boult, who is ranked No. 1 in ODIs. Boult is a curious case, because he hasn’t even been in the ODI side very long. He has, however, maintained a bowling rating of 750 or thereabouts for most of the past 18 months, during which time he has also struggled for fitness.

But given that he is rapidly improving and is only 27, this column contends that over the next few years, Trent Boult will establish himself as the best ODI bowler in the world. He might not have quite as many wicket deliveries as Mitchell Starc, but he is far more relentlessly accurate and incisive.

Perhaps the major weakness of today’s Black Caps side in comparison to those of past years is the absence of a world-class allrounder. When Cairns, Oram, Styris and Vettori were operating the team had both depth and flexibility.

Certainly there is potential among the current wider squad for a quality No. 6 to emerge. Corey Anderson has even more potential than Cairns, but can’t stay on the field long enough to make an impact. Jimmy Neesham appears to have the goods, but has been unable to translate it into class in ODIs. The best bet going forward might be Mitchell Santner, as the errors he makes tend to be errors of inexperience.

With four world-class players in Williamson, Taylor, Guptill and Boult, and a handful of potential ones in Matt Henry (currently ranked 7 in ODI bowling but can’t make the side), Santner, Anderson, Tom Latham, Lockie Ferguson and Adam Milne, the Black Caps side of 2017 looks to have both a stronger core and much greater depth than ever before.

All it would take would be to maintain those standards or gradually improve them over time as players naturally get more experience, and the Black Caps will surely claim the No. 1 ranking sooner or later.

This side could actually take the No. 1 ranking fairly soon if enough results went in their favour. A 3-0 win in the ODI series against South Africa later this month is far from unthinkable, considering they just beat the world champion Australians 2-0 at home.

That would leave them second, two points behind Aussie, and therefore within striking range of the previously unachievable.

Australia in New Zealand 2017 ODI Series Preview

Missing an explosively terrifying opening batsman and a first drop with the hand-eye co-ordination of a god, the Australian cricket team came to New Zealand and got beaten 3-0. Prediction for this week? No, that was what happened the last time we were in that situation, in February 2007.

Building up for a later triumphant Cricket World Cup campaign, Australia rested both Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting for the 2007 Hadlee-Chappell series in New Zealand, and got beaten 3-0.

Absent the usual steel up top, Australia disintegrated in the first ODI to Shane Bond, who took 5-23 from 9.3 overs, and they lost by ten wickets. Chasing 337 in the second ODI, New Zealand won after a brilliant Ross Taylor century and some dogged lower-order batting. Again chasing in the third, only that time 347, the Black Caps won in the last over with the last wicket after a 165-run 6th wicket stand between Craig McMillan and Brendon McCullum.

The 2017 edition of the Hadlee-Chappell will be absent David Warner – who recently took AB de Villiers’s crown as No. 1 ranked ODI batsman, and Steve Smith, who averages 51.90 since the start of 2015.

In the 2016 edition in New Zealand, the Black Caps took the series 2-1: Australia won a close game and was thumped twice. Something similar might be on the cards for this week.

Like 2007, the Australia of 2017 will possess some fearsome bowling. Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins make up what must be close to the most dangerous trio ever seen in ODI history. Both Starc and Hazlewood are ranked in the top 5, and although Cummins is only ranked 27th that is a reflection of bad luck with injuries and not an absence of talent.

The Black Caps, for their part, have their own heavy artillery. Trent Boult is today the No. 1 ranked ODI bowler in the world, and Matt Henry is at No. 7. These two bowlers demolished the Australia top order in the first ODI of the 2016 series, leaving them at one stage 6/41.

Tim Southee might only be ranked 26th but he is dangerous with a bit of assistance, and Mitchell Santner is fast becoming like another Daniel Vettori in terms of miserly economy. This series will surely also feature more of Lockie Ferguson, who rocked the speed radar in Australia with a string of 150kph+ deliveries, but whose pace was often to the batsman’s advantage on the hard pitches.

The major difference between the two sides is in the batting. Australia’s best batsman in this series is arguably Glenn Maxwell, ranked 18th.

Because Australia is absent Warner at the top and Steve Smith ranked 8th, New Zealand have the top-ranked three batsmen in this match, with Kane Williamson at 5, Martin Guptill at 9 and Ross Taylor at 16. These three batsmen would all be in a Black Caps all-time ODI top 5.

Tom Latham may only average 33 in ODIs but appears to have now adjusted very well to the white ball game, and he is now averaging 40 in his last 25 ODI matches. As he is still only 24 and improving so rapidly in all forms of the game he is on a trajectory to become as good as the others.

Australia has brought in the reputable Aaron Finch to bolster the batting, but none of the names in the Australian top 5 – weak by historical standards even with Warner and Smith – will stand out to the Black Caps tacticians as a particular threat.

The obvious plan for the Black Caps to win the series, then, is to repeat how they won it in 2016, namely by bowling Australia out for substandard totals.

The market seems to think that this is very likely – the Black Caps are paying only $2.12 on BetFair to take the first ODI at Eden Park tomorrow. At the TAB a 3-0 Black Caps series win is paying only $6.50, which seems minuscule considering that Australia has won five Cricket World Cups.

Considering that the Hadlee-Chappell is fast becoming the ODI cricket equivalent of a marquee series like the Ashes or the Bledisloe Cup, probably the best strategy would be to save your betting money for chips and weed and just kick back to enjoy the degree of skill on display.

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.