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

Boult Masterclass Helps Make it the Black Caps’ Day

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

Pre-match odds had South Africa favourites at around $2.30, the Black Caps at around $3.80. The Black Caps went out slightly when South Africa won the toss and chose to bat, but not by much (to around $4.30), probably reflecting the degree of uncertainty around the pitch and weather conditions.

The Black Caps went with four seamers, appearing to agree with the argument presented earlier this week that Ish Sodhi offers less value than either Henry or Bracewell. They decided to go with Bracewell over Henry, possibly for the good reason that this is not a development tour.

Trent Boult was magnificent in the first session before drinks, taking the wicket of Stephen Cook with a perfectly placed ball that took the edge through to Watling. Boult bowled 8 overs for figures of 8-1 before drinks in a masterclass of accuracy. Southee and Bracewell were less effective, Southee struggling for rhythm and Bracewell looking rusty. At this point the Black Caps had gone out to $4.50 and the Draw had come in to $2.66.

Williamson shuffled his bowlers after drinks but Southee continued to bowl poorly, giving away too many wide balls outside off without building any real pressure. By lunch, South Africa were 94/2 with Hashim Amla looking imperious. He was on 42 off 41 balls with nine boundaries. There was no aggression from Amla, just waiting for bad balls and then hitting them hard into gaps. The Black Caps were paying $5.80 by this time, with South Africa in to $2.16.

The passage after lunch was marked by the intense battle between Amla and Boult, the best batsman and best bowler on either side. After Duminy was caught hooking off a Wagner short ball, Amla found the going much more difficult than before lunch, with Boult continuing to throw down accurate deliveries with excellent shape at a good pace. Eventually Boult dismissed Amla with a straight ball that swung in and took the inside edge through to Watling. At 131/4 at the second drinks break, the odds for the Black Caps had come in to $4.10, with the Draw fading to $2.86.

After the drinks break the second session was attritional, with only 15 runs coming off the last 14 overs of the session. Faf du Plessis was extremely defensive and ended the session with only 18 runs from 74 balls.

The moment of the third session, and perhaps the day, came just when it started to look like the redoubtable South African defence had started to tire the Kiwis. A wide half-volley from Neil Wagner was smashed by Faf du Plessis and cannoned towards the boundary until plucked from the air one-handed by a flying Kane Williamson at gully with a catch that Chris Harris would have been proud of.

This left South Africa 160/5 and the odds for the Black Caps were then $3.55, still the outsider but lower than at the start of play.

The third session continued with a South African counterattack, with Temba Bavuma and Quentin de Kock taking on the Black Caps bowlers. Their aggression was checked by a Mitchell Santner double strike, with de Kock caught slogging in the deep and Bavuma out trying to sweep an arm ball that had him lbw.

From that point it seemed that the South African innings was in its death throes, with Philander out chipping Wagner tamely to mid off. Kagiso Rabada and Dale Steyn were left when bad light stopped play, after 77.4 overs, with South Africa 236/8. Perhaps surprisingly at this point, South Africa were still favourites, paying $2.74 to the Black Caps’ $2.88 (the Draw was $3.45).

The player of the day was probably Trent Boult, narrowly over Neil Wagner, with Hashim Amla in third place. The play of the day was definitely Kane Williamson’s screamer at gully to dismiss Faf du Plessis.

Neil Wagner’s bowling average is now under 30, and with Southee looking insipid (his 18 painful overs going for 63 runs with no wicket) it might be that Boult is now clearly the leader of the New Zealand pace attack. Boult looked far more dangerous than Southee today and on another day could have had five wickets.

The Black Caps will look to take care of South Africa with the new ball tomorrow and then bat until the close of play.

– DAN McGLASHAN

Is It Once Again Time to Boycott South African Sports Teams?

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There has been little discussion about the news that the South African team for the Black Caps’ tour of Africa will be chosen on the basis of race, and not merit. For the first time since the early 1980s, New Zealand finds itself faced with a team that leaves out its best players for being the wrong skin colour.

CricInfo reports that “The two-match series is the first South Africa play since last month’s announcement that CSA will impose selection criteria relating to the number of players of colour in all national teams in accordance with a memorandum of understanding signed with the country’s sports ministry.”

In April this year, the South African Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula banned Cricket South Africa from hosting international tournaments for one year because of being too slow to reach transformation targets.

The ‘memorandum of understanding’ signed by Cricket South Africa could also be understood as a surrender document.

It sounds unbelievable, but the South African Government has decreed that a maximum of 40% of the South African players can be white. In practice, that means four players in the national cricket side can be white.

This raises the possibility that the injuries said to have been sustained by AB de Villiers and Morne Morkel are a ruse to distract from the fact that some white players have been forced out of the South African team to play the first Test, starting Saturday, by the quota.

South Africa coach Russell Domingo says that “if someone says Hashim Amla or JP Duminy or Dane Piedt is playing because of the colour of their skin, they are smoking something.” He neglects to mention Temba Bavuma, who, as a specialist batsman with a first-class batting average of 38, probably does not deserve a place in the national side.

If the South African cricket team is chosen on the basis of race, and not on merit, it has no business on the international stage.

Probably it’s too early to yet make a judgment, because we don’t yet know if the quota is an honest attempt at transforming a sporting scene that gives undue advantage to white people, or if it’s simply a crude attempt to disadvantage a racial enemy.

For my part, I’ll probably just be happy to see Kane Williamson facing up to Dale Steyn for a few weeks.

– DAN MCGLASHAN

Could the Black Caps Run a Four Man Pace Battery?

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With the Black Caps to begin their South Africa leg of their tour of Africa with the first Test on 19 AUG, attention turns to the composition of the team ahead of the main challenge of this tour.

Three of the positions in the batting order are as certain as they have ever been. There is no doubt about Tom Latham opening, about Kane Williamson at 3 and Ross Taylor at 4.

With the bowlers there is no doubt about Tim Southee and Trent Boult, and the middle order is certain to feature both Mitchell Santner and wicketkeeper BJ Watling.

Regarding the second opener’s position, Martin Guptill probably did enough to retain his incumbency as an opener, and is therefore expected to start over Jeet Raval. The 27-year old Raval, who is yet to play a Test, has a first-class average of 44 and is probably the strongest first-class opener yet to play Test cricket since Mark Richardson.

Henry Nicholls will probably continue to bat at 5, with New Zealand unlikely to put Luke Ronchi in the position. Nicholls might have the most tenuous claim to a place in the team, but the Black Caps management seem willing to give him a decent run in the side because he is only 24.

Regarding the bowling options, New Zealand might find itself in a good position to gamble on a four man pace battery, on account of that the spin doesn’t look threatening enough to help take 20 South African wickets.

Ish Sodhi took eight wickets at 25 on the Zimbabwe leg of the tour but was far from convincing. Although he occasionally bowled a dangerous ball, he put down a haul of full tosses and long hops that even Zimbabwe’s batsmen could easily put away. His economy rate of 3.29, compared to Mitchell Santner’s 2.15, is evidence that he does not yet have the control to tie down an end.

Santner, for his part, seems to be improving as a bowler. His economy rate reflects that his bowling was tight against Zimbabwe, rarely straying away from an off stump line, even if the spin was gentle.

Given that Santner will almost certainly be chosen for his all-round value, and that Martin Guptill has shown himself capable of tidy spin bowling should the need arise, it may be that Sodhi is deemed to have very little value to the team for the South Africa leg.

Neil Wagner has become indispensable as the Black Caps’ third seamer. His Test bowling average has come down to 30.43, which is lower than that of Tim Southee. Wagner also has the quality of being able to pose a threat with the old ball, which gives him value in the same conditions that Southee and Boult are less dangerous in.

This leaves a fourth seamer spot open for either Matt Henry or Doug Bracewell. This column believes that Bracewell is unlikely to possess the application to develop much further as either a bowler or a batsman, and that neither is true of Henry. Although Henry is yet to impress in his four Test career, he has 51 ODI wickets at a world-class average of 22.17, and so his potential appears much higher.

If Guptill is capable of bowling in the case we need two spinners, and if Santner is capable of bowling a large number of tidy overs as he did against Zimbabwe, the best team choice for the Black Caps might be to drop Sodhi and go with a four man pace attack.

This would give us a Black Caps side of:

1. Martin Guptill (6)
2. Tom Latham
3. Kane Williamson (c)
4. Ross Taylor
5. Henry Nicholls
6. Mitchell Santner (5)
7. BJ Watling (wk)
8. Matt Henry (3)
9. Neil Wagner (4)
10. Trent Boult (1)
11. Tim Southee (2)

– DAN McGLASHAN

Soccer and Test Match Cricket Draw Odds Calculator and Strategy

The purpose of this program is to calculate the fair return on a soccer or Test cricket match, given that you know what the odds of both teams winning are (or at least what’s being offered on those sides).

You would use this program if you were a BetFair user and wanted to find an opportunity for arbitrage on a soccer or Test cricket match.

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Soccer Odds of Draw Calculator

Instructions

The program starts with all values at 3 00. This represents $3.00 in the decimal system of odds measurement. To change the odds for either Team One or Team Two, click on the green or red buttons next to the starting values. The green buttons increase the value and the red ones decrease it. The number (-1 or -10) represents by how many cents the value will change when you press that button.

When you change the values for either Team One or Team Two, the fair odds of a Draw will change. They are calculated on the fly so that the odds for Team One, Team Two and the Draw all add up to 100% exactly. In other words, as the odds for either team go up, the odds for the draw will go down, and vice-versa.

The most obvious use for this program is to calculate the arbitrage points for betting on the draw.

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Using the above as an example (screenshot taken at Lunch on the first day of the Black Caps vs. South Africa Test in Durban, 2016), you can enter 2.16 for Team One and 5.9 for Team Two.

Basic Strategy

The most basic way to use this program is to calculate if the draw if overvalued or undervalued, and, if either, to lay or back it respectively.