As far as Test Cricket is concerned, New Zealand are arguably the weakest side in the world game right now. Even by their own poor standards, the Kiwis were simply embarrassing as they crashed to 45 all out in the first innings against South Africa on the opening day of this series (2nd Test starts: 8am GMT, Friday).
Brendon McCullum’s men battled hard second time around but they will have to improve tremendously if they are to secure a positive result in this second match.
Those really are extraordinary odds but they are fully justified given the comparative strengths of the two teams. New Zealand seem particularly weak in their bowling attack and are unlikely to take 20 South African wickets in this match but can their batsmen improve enough to secure a draw?
There is some good news for the tourists with reports that South African seamer Vernon Philander will miss the game due to a recurrence of a hamstring injury. Philander did the early damage in the first test, taking the incredible figures of 5-7 as New Zealand slumped to that abject total and his absence certainly weakens the team.
Rory Kleinveldt has been called into the squad as replacement but Graeme Smith’s side will rely chiefly on the efforts of striker bowlers Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.
The Kiwis can also look back on the second innings in Cape Town where they battled bravely to avoid an innings defeat. New Zealand compiled a respectable 275 second time around and their innings featured a first test hundred for the promising Dean Brownlie.
Skipper McCullum added a half century and there was useful support down the order from BJ Watling and James Franklin. If all of those men can keep that form and find support from the likes of Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson, who had poor games in Cape Town, the tourists can post a competitive total.
There should be no real concerns for a South African batting line up that posted 347-8 in their only innings of the first test. Alviro Petersen made a hundred in that match and while the big players such as Jacques Kallis, Hashim Amla and AB De Villiers couldn’t make the big scores, there were half centuries from all three men in a total that New Zealand were unable to eclipse, despite having two goes at it.
The tourists’ selectors may opt to bring left arm seamer Neil Wagner into the side in place of veteran Chris Martin. This move would also strengthen the batting to a certain degree while offering the pace up front that Martin seems to have lost in his advancing years.
The absence of Philander alone should mean that New Zealand will avoid a repeat of their performance in the first test. Brendon McCullum’s men are unlikely to make another double figure score when these teams meet again in Port Elizabeth on Friday but another South African win seems the only possible result.
This Preview’s Betting Tip Verdict: They may not be great odds and we don’t necessarily advise betting at heavy odds-on but this is as close to a banker bet as they come. If you have to make a wager then it has to be South Africa to win at 1/5 with BetVictor, Stan James or Ladbrokes.