There are two huge internationals at the weekend involving teams from the home nations taking on sides from the Southern Hemisphere and Australasia in particular.
England play New Zealand at Twickenham and they are 8/1 outsiders to win the match. England lost to South Africa by one point last weekend but the game ended in controversy after a bizarre decision made by the England captain.
With two minutes to play England were four points behind but were awarded a penalty. The only way England could win the match was by scoring a try. Chris Robshaw ordered a kick to be taken, gambling on England retaining the ball from the kick-off and creating another scoring opportunity.
The kick was made so England trailed by one but predictably there was no time to launch another attack and the match was lost. Robshaw has admitted he made a mistake in instructing a kick to be taken but this was an example of poor decision making by the captain at a crucial stage in the match.
England have lost the last three home matches against New Zealand and on current form they are unlikely to end that run of defeats. The average winning margin over the three matches is 19 points and a similar supremacy is expected in their next meeting at the weekend.
Wales have now lost their last six internationals and a long overdue win is unlikely to come against Australia. The away side have won the last seven meetings between the sides, including the last four at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
New Zealand beat Wales by 23 points last weekend in a fine display by the current World Champions. On collateral form there is little to choose between England and Wales playing at home. That would suggest that New Zealand can beat England by anything between 15 and 25 points.
England lost the First Test against India by nine wickets. The new captain, Alistair Cook, led by example by scoring 176 in the second innings but that contribution was not enough to prevent a heavy defeat.
Conditions in India generally favour a definite result rather than the draw. The weather is rarely a factor and the key to determining the outcome of any match is whether any side can take 20 wickets.
First innings totals are well above average in India and the home side were just too good for the England bowlers during their first knock. A commanding first innings lead was established and India then went through the formalities of dismissing England cheaply enough to win the match despite Cook’s efforts.
England beat India in the Second Test and the key to the win was the bowling of the spinners. England’s spin bowlers took 19 of the 20 Indian wickets that fell over the course of the match. Monty Panesar was not selected for the first match but he took six wickets to help his side dismiss India cheaply in their second innings.
The third of a four match series begins on December 5th and England will be looking to their spinners to again bowl at India like they have been bowling at home for many years. The key to determining the outcome of the third match is momentum and motivation and England score highly in both these important areas.
Kevin Pietersen is again a valuable part of the England set-up and his batting will be crucial in the Third Test. In the second match Pietersen scored a massive 186 in England’s first innings and allied to another century by the new captain, Alistair Cook, helped his side establish a useful first inning lead that proved decisive. The spinners bowled India out to leave the batsmen with a target of 54 runs to win the match.
Back next Friday.