The coin toss is only hours away. Pump up! It’s great that New Zealand are coming here off the back of two successful years.
Having not a lost series over that period (home and away) proves they are the real deal and ready to give the Aussies hell.
There’s obviously a lot of chat about this being their best chance in 30 years to claim a series win in Australia, and there is no reason why they can’t. The only real question about the Kiwis, is how quick can the batsmen adapt to the pace and bounce of the Australian wickets?
Their bowling attack is going to be frothing over the wickets they have been handed. The Gabba, WACA and the first pink ball test in Adelaide has only given them more to work with.
Boult is nothing short of New Zealand’s Mitchell Starc. Beautiful left arm action with that late swing that hones in on a left hander’s off stump, and Southee is the perfect foil bringing the ball the other way. The two have bowled in tandem since U/17’s, ripping the Australian U/19’s apart in the World Cup and continuing to the top level. If they can get their team over the line, it makes for a great movie script.
Their batsmen have some skills of their own with the big guns being McCallum and Kane Williamson. The latter being touted as a future record breaker and the former holding a few records of his own. It’s not going to be as simple as getting these two out and expecting the rest to fall.
Guptill (pictured) has been in great nic at the top of the order in ODI’s and will be looking to transfer some performances into the test arena. He will be key in setting up the middle for a proper crack at the softer ball.
Tom Latham is only 23 and has an average hovering around 40. If he can play to his average this series it will go a long way to helping dent the new ball attack.
Throw in Taylor who has been around long enough to not be over-awed by the occasion.
Line them up and all of a sudden you have five batsmen who, on their day, can cause enough trouble to any attack in the world (which they have proven over the last two years).
On the other hand, the list of questions for the Aussies is considerably longer. Two new faces in the top three is always a nervous thought. The fact that both Burns and Khawaja are based at The Gabba will help, but come the first session of the first test if you’re batting on a quick strip with a tinge of green, I can imagine it would count for little. Both Burns and Khawaja have been in and out of the side and will be looking to cement their positions. It’s the first time in a few years that I can say there are a few options waiting to join the team and some guys can consider themselves unlucky to have missed out.
I think it is this competition that will see us move through the transition period a bit more smoothly than the last time we had to do it. Along with the sloppy Ponting/Clarke change over and bulk retirements, it seemed like no one was banging the door down through that period. We were searching high and low for guys to step up and claim a spot.
The magnifying glass will also be on Mitch Marsh. Everyone will be hoping he can get some runs on the board. It wasn’t that long ago we were all wondering if he was going to be a test level bowler. Now all of a sudden he is getting it through with some pace and getting breakthroughs. I’m hoping a home series and the confidence of the selectors for the whole summer will see him relax and contribute.
Nevill is also under some public pressure, with some people thinking he didn’t show enough in England. I think he did a pretty good job coming in at seven with the top six generally in all sorts. If he can be given a better head start, he might be able to build his innings like he has done with NSW and guide the tail through to the end.
While I have said that Siddle should have kept his place (only to make Hazelwood really hungry for his spot again), I think it obvious that Hazelwood is a test bowler for the next eight years, if he stays fit.
I love that we have Pattinson, Cummins (and don’t forget Jackson Bird) all coming back from injury. These guys could fill the test bowling stocks on their own. From this, there will be some pressure on all the bowlers to book their flights to New Zealand and beyond. For me no one more so than Mitchell Johnson. While he is probably the first picked from the selector’s perspective, I think he needs a big summer to put any retirement questions to bed.
Weighing all this up and considering the Aussies track record at the ground, I think a draw or an Australian win is on the cards.
Apparently there is plenty of poor weather predicted for the later part of the match. Curator, Kevin Mitchell, is hoping the storms come at night and let the drainage do the work before play resumes. We all know that Queensland rain can come hard and put the brakes on in minutes, so let’s hope it stays away and we have a cracking start to the summer.