Having swept aside Pakistan, a revitalised Australia will have a harder time of it against a dogged New Zealand.
Australia v New Zealand
12-16 December; 1.00pm local, 5.00am GMT
New Zealand last won a Test series in Australia in 1985. Of their 31 matches there, they've won just three. But this time around, as is so often the case between these sides in recent times, it's expected to be a keen contest.
The visitors are, after all, No.2 on the MRF Tyres ICC Test Team Rankings, three places above No.5 Australia. They have five batsmen and three bowlers in the top 20. Both Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor have strong numbers in the country, and as the rest of their middle order has proved in recent times, they can be obdurate even if you get past the two big guns.
However, they are coming up against a Tim Paine-led side for whom everything has been clicking, along with the added challenge of a day/night Test in a sweltering Perth.
Moreover, they are still sweating over the availability of their pace bowler Trent Boult, who is recovering from a side strain, and all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme. Boult bowled at the nets, but he is set to be monitored further before a decision is made, while de Grandhomme has been cleared. It could still open up a Test debut for Lockie Ferguson, with his express pace an asset on the pacy Perth surface.
Team news from the captain’s press conference 📣— BLACKCAPS (@BLACKCAPS) December 11, 2019
Ross Taylor’s right thumb is fine 👍
Colin de Grandhomme tracking well & set to be available 😀
Trent Boult to be monitored at training today before any decision is made 🤞#AUSvNZ #cricketnation pic.twitter.com/e8PLAqIUNI
The team had another injury concern with Taylor – who made a double hundred last time in Perth – copping a blow on his right thumb. He left practice early on Tuesday to ice his hand, even as the team confirmed that no scans were needed.
Australia, meanwhile, will retain the same XI – "I'd be a brave man to change the XI," coach Justin Langer said. Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins will form the pace attack, with off-spinner Nathan Lyon backing them.
Remember the last time
In 2015, New Zealand lost the series 2-0, although the final game in Adelaide, the first-ever day/night Test, was a close one. Set a target of 187 after Josh Hazlewood picked up six second-innings wickets, Australia were pegged back by a rampaging Boult before Shaun Marsh dug in to top score with 49 and set up a hard-fought three-wicket win for the hosts.
What they said
Gary Stead, New Zealand coach: "We have to be careful that we don't overstate the pink ball. We start an hour earlier than most pink-ball Tests start so it's an hour less of darkness at the end of the day. I think perhaps the bigger factor is the heat we are going to face over the next four or five days as well, just making sure we are aware of that."
Justin Langer, Australia coach: "We talk about continuity, they've certainly got that. They've got a seasoned bowling attack with the aggressor in Wagner and potentially Ferguson. They've got guys in the top 10 in test cricket and one of the great players in their captain who not only plays with great skill but great humility. We have huge respect for the New Zealand cricket team and for New Zealand in general."
It won't be easy for the teams. Perth is sweltering and temperatures are expected to hit 40°C during the Test, with clear skies. Then there are the unique conditions of a day/night Test, with the pink-ball under floodlights adding a different challenge. The pitch is likely to offer pace and bounce, with the out-and-out quicks relishing what they can get from it.
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