By Andrew Malone

This is by far the biggest game of the tournament from an Australasian point of view and both teams come into this game on fire.

Australia smashed rivals England in their World Cup opener by over 110 runs which made a statement to the competition in that they are rightfully favourites to lift the cup. Two players performed well above their best in M Marsh and A Finch, these were the two players who in my eyes Austrlia would be “carrying” through the WC but it’s great to see both full of confidence after the first game.

My main worry is the fact that Clarke comes in at 5 without any real match practice and although he is a quality batsman this could leave Australia exposed if Smith gets out early with no anchor to stabilise the innings around our power hitters. The advantage we have is that if Smith or Clarke can build an innings we have an abundance of power hitters to capitalise around them. Finch, Warner, Maxwell, Watson, M Marsh, Faulkner, Johnson depending on who is selected.

NZ have got on a bit of a roll of late beating Sri Lanka by 98 runs, bowling Scotland and England out for less than 150 each. Their proven ability to get early wickets and utilising the swinging new ball will be a massive factor in NZ’s performance come Saturday. Again Southee and Boult will open providing pace and swing through the air. I think NZ hold the edge in that their bowling is better suited to the conditions and as a result they have a larger margin of error before the batsman can get “on top of the bowlers”

The Ground… Eden Park has some of the smallest boundaries for an international venue. The straight boundaries measuring at a measly 55m from the strikers end seems to have thrown a curveball. How do you bowl? How do you bat? These are interesting questions, the easy answers would be bowl short forcing the batsman onto the backfoot, but then you will see batsmen walking down leg and baseball swinging over the long on rope, even a mishit with today’s bats and the speed of a Milne or MJ will ensure a 6. I can see 370 plays 390 here. Because of the small boundaries I think chasing will be a massive advantage in this game as 15 an over isn’t out of the question at the end of the innings.

Keys to victory.

For Australia to win on Saturday the following needs to happen.

  • MJ needs to have his radar in check… Raw speed will ensure he gets smoked to all corners, if he is short but not directed well all NZ batsman can use his pace to hit boundaries square of the wicket… anything full that doesn’t nip around will get sent over his head knowing anything but an edge will go over the rope and at 45m straight boundary behind the batsman an edge is a great chance to go over the rope as well.
  • The attack needs to swing the ball consistently to force the NZ batsman to worry about the movement.
  • Watto needs to bowl his 10 overs. His ability to swing an ageing ball and the fact he bowls mediums is very handy for Australia as he can bowl back of a length with Haddin up to the stumps to keep the bats in the crease forcing them to play shots to parts of the ground that can be easily defended.
  • Wickets are key! There is only so much damage control you can do on a ground like Eden Park so you have to be attacking. Wickets is what will slow the run rate down for the bowling side and its hard for the batsman to score runs from the pavilion.
  • Clarke or Smith need to anchor for the whole innings, with power hitters like Finch, Warner, Maxwell, Watto, M Marsh in the unit Australia need someone at the other end feeding them strike so that they can play without fear, if this happens 375 is easily achieved.

For NZ to win

  • Southee and Boult needn’t be afraid to pitch the ball up. The swing these boys can get showed England that you have to negotiate them as its hard to force shots against a swinging ball. If these two pitch the ball up and swing it then the slips will be a massive chance as warner finch and watto won’t be able to help themselves but drive on the up.
  • Big Mac needs to play outside of himself. He has played Australia 42 times with an ave of 28 although being in the form of his life he needs to bat well for NZ to win.
  • Williamson needs to show more on the big stage. No question that this kid is a star but he has looked shaky to say the least so far in the tournament, Saturday is the perfect chance for him to score a big hundred anchoring an end for Big Mac, Taylor, Anderson, Ronchi to go big down the other.
  • Big Mac needs to captain like he has done so far this Tournament… Brendon has been very attacking so far this WC and needs to be again his cut throat mentality has caused England and Scotland to crumble and if exposed, Aussies middle order could come down in a heap.

Recommended plays

  • For those of you that jumped onto NZ to win the Group at $2.75 as suggested last week there is no need to make a ML play as we could leave ourselves to exposed. If NZ lose this then our future is most likely gone as well. You can hedge with backing Aus at $2~ to win the group if you like but my lean is on NZ to win the match so I’m gonna take a punt and let it ride. If you didn’t get on the future then I would play NZ for 1u at anything over 2.20 (2.30+ easily available)
  • Over 1.5 Wickets first 15 overs. I think this is a great play considering both teams have quality bowling lineups that will swing the ball early. Currently at $1.72 at Sportsbet take this for 1u and add another unit at anything over $1.60 if Aus bat first as Warner, Finch, Watson are all likely candidates to snick up early.
  • Total 6’s OVER as mentioned this ground is tiny, no line has been released yet for the game but I would happily take anything up to over 16.5 at $1.90~ for 1u
  • Total 4’s Under same principle I think 4’s and 6’s will be pretty even this game as the boundaries are small and you will get more value going over the top. Take anything under 55.5 (ie 55 and above is a bet) fours at $1.90~ for 1u
  • Kane Williamson Top Team Runscorer Sportsbet .5u at $4.33 with the Hits a 6 refund.
  • Steve Smith Top Team Runscorer .5u at $8 with hits a 6 refund… stupid odds considering this man is in the form of his life and Aus can easily lose early wickets to give him plenty of time in the middle.
  • M Starc over 2.5 wickets .5u at $3.50 at LUXBET. 0.5u play. His ability to york players whilst swinging the ball should see him taking wickets here plus he is turned to at the death when wickets present themselves.
  • After the toss it will be interesting to see what the total line for the 50 over score is set at… will update a suggested play on twitter if there is one (likely)
  • Live betting is a great opportunity to make some serious coin in cricket. Markets adjust rapidly and I think the markets will adjust heavily in the favour of the side batting first if a score of 350ish is achieved even though I believe this to be a par score on the day, therefore some value may be found backing the chasing side. Will advise on a betting strategy on the day via twitter.

Happy punting and best of luck for the rest of the tournament
Andrew Malone
@malonecricpicks