England to Cap off a fine tour with Test win
England (1/4) will look to win back-to-back series for the first time since 2011 when they take on New Zealand (8/1, drawn series 9/2) in these three Tests.
It was the home summer of two years ago when England routed India 4-0 to ascend to the top of the rankings that they last managed to follow up a series win, little did they know how badly their five-day form would desert them after those joyous scenes.
Andy Flower's men finished 2012 strongly when they won in India for the first time in 28 years, but if they had have lost the last Test to draw that series it would've been England's worst calendar year in Test history in terms of matches lost, quite incredible when you consider some of the highs they've had over the last few years.
This is a good series for England to play right now though, they meet home and away before another double header with the old enemy Australia and they will want all their senior guys on top form ahead of those blockbuster battles.
New Zealand are in a transitional period with the likes of Daniel Vettori not considered for Tests anymore after retiring from the short-forms and Jeetan Patel, who won the County Championship with Warwickshire last year, also out of favour along with Chris Martin.
That's quite a lot of wickets to make up for, which is why with England's superior attack I can't see anything other than a comfortable away victory.
New Zealand just don't have the experience to put pressure on from both ends, Tim Southee (7/4 top NZ bowler) and Doug Bracewell (15/8) are going to have a lot of pressure on them to perform consistently, and if the pitch isn't offering much then it will be cannon fodder for the England batsmen.
It's why I would look at players towards the top of the order for any top run scorer bets; I personally like the look of Ian Bell at 5/1, the Warwickshire man regularly puts 50 on the board these days and if he's coming to the crease with runs already on the board then he should have no problem settling.
With the form of England's top order, it shouldn't be a problem for Bell to dictate things.
The only question mark in the batting line-up is Nick Compton (8/1), but personally I think criticism of him has been unfair; to come in on your debut tour in India and still average over 30 is fine by me, certainly not reason enough to be dropped, that said the form of Joe Root (5/1) in all forms recently will certainly give the selectors a big decision to make.
The Yorkshire star looks like he could be a permanent fixture in all formats for a few years, his composure and variety of shot-making is remarkable for his age.
There is nothing really to trouble England in this series, they might have lost a warm-up match but in the grand scheme of things that's not a big deal.
They have two genuine outstanding batsmen in Brendon McCullum (11/4 top NZ batsman) and Ross Taylor (11/4), but what's the relationship between those two like after a turbulent few months off the field? Does Taylor still have the respect of the others?
Big concerns for New Zealand ahead of a tour which will suit England's players perfectly, the likes of Alastair Cook (9/4 top England batsman) and Kevin Pietersen (11/4) can score runs for fun whereas Stuart Broad (4/1 top England bowler) and Steven Finn (3/1) can really get themselves in the groove for the summer ahead.
Accounting for possible bad weather and a Test where New Zealand can offer some resistance, I'd go with 2-0 England at 2/1 in the series correct score market, England -1.5 Tests is an 8/13 shot.