England must grasp final opportunity

Joe Root

Having been totally outplayed in the first Test in Auckland, England have just one chance to put things right against hosts New Zealand.

The second and final Test takes place at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch, a ground which has hosted just four Test matches to date – all of which have ended in a positive conclusion, with three of them won by the Black Caps.

That record alone suggests that 27/20 for New Zealand to win again is a little skinny, while England at 13/10 to secure victory also appears tight in terms of a potential return.

In Auckland, expected leading lights Kane Williamson and Trent Boult helped drive the hosts on to an innings victory, and left-armer Boult and new-ball partner Tim Southee are bound to be a threat to England once again.

However, support paceman Neil Wagner should not be overlooked, as he showed when claiming three crucial wickets in England’s second innings in Auckland.

The left-arm quick is 15/1 to be named man of the match at the Hagley Oval, where he has taken 17 wickets in four test outings at the venue.

For England this is the absolute last-chance saloon of what has been a dismal winter in Test cricket, with the Three Lions losing 4-0 in Australia and crumbling in the opening Test in New Zealand.

Changes are expected after the loss at Eden Park, while opening batsman Mark Stoneman may need to go big to ensure he remains in place for the summer home Test action.

The Surrey left-hander averages a touch under 28 in nine Test appearances to date, having registered four half-centuries, but not got any further than 56.

At 15/1 to be man of the match in Christchurch he is something of a long shot, with captain Joe Root a slightly more conservative choice at 31/4 to take the honours and at least head home with something to shout about.

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