Australia v New Zealand | Friday 13 November | The WACA | Perth | 04:00
Fine batting displays from David Warner, Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja and Adam Voges at the Gabba ensured that Australia took a 1-0 lead in the three Test series against New Zealand. The Black Caps would have headed into this tour brimming with confidence, having not lost a Test series since a 2-0 defeat away to England in 2013. That record could well be in danger if they don’t show a marked improvement against a storming Australian side hell-bent on leapfrogging Pakistan and South Africa into first place on the ICC Test Rankings.
The second of three Trans-Tasman Tests is set to get underway at the WACA on Friday morning. The Australian top order will again look to occupy the crease for extended periods of time while their bowlers pepper the New Zealand top order on a quick Perth wicket.
The mind games have continued in the lead-up to the second Test, with Mitchell Jonson admitting he was surprised at how ineffective Trent Boult was in the first game. On top of Jonson's comments, Mitchell Starc's wild throw at Mark Craig will add a bit of extra spice to this Test. Starc was later fined and his actions publicly criticised by his Steve Smith, though that won't be likely to have extinguished the fires in New Zealanders bellies.
New Zealand 4/1
New Zealand 4/1
The Australian management will be happy with their 208 run win in the first Test of the series. However, while there were excellent batting and bowling performances, Darren Lehman has admitted that the hosts’ fielding wasn’t quite up to scratch. A few missed opportunities at bat pad earned Burns the ire of the Australian attack after twice dropping Martin Guptill fielding in the specialist position. Lehman has come out in support of the debutant stating that he will improve in the position and has been working closely with fielding coach, Greg Blewett in a bid to improve his fortunes at under the helmet.
On the batting front, Australia looked unstoppable. David Warner was his usual industrious self, anchoring both innings with a pair of centuries. He was ably supported by Joe Burns (71, 129), Usman Khawaja (171, 9*) and Adam Voges (83, 1*) The Australian top order were rarely tested by a New Zealand pace attack that promised so much, but delivered little. Only Mark Craig shone with six wickets in the match, although he did return an economy rate of over five runs over both innings.
The Aussie bowlers were right at home on the Gabba surface. The likes of Mitchell Jonson and Mitchell Starc were able to hassle the New Zealand top order by consistently hitting the right areas. While there was plenty of short stuff, the Australian quicks had no problem pitching the ball up – Starc, particularly in the first innings was outstanding grabbing four wickets including that of Kane Williamson. Nathan Lyon also found a lot of joy on what was a dry, dusty track. The off-spinner was particularly effective in New Zealand’s second innings taking three wickets while only going for three an over.
Moving forward, the Australian selectors shouldn’t make any changes to the team that got the job done in Brisbane last week.
It’s back to the drawing board for the Black Caps and their management team after being comprehensively outplayed in the first Test.
Aside from Kane Williamson and Brendon McCullum, the New Zealand top order crumbled in the face of some outstanding fast bowling by the Australians. The likes of Martin Guptill Tom Latham, BJ Watling and Ross Taylor will need to step it up big time when the teams next meet at the WACA. Taylor in particular, who was for such a long time the anchor of this New Zealand side, has been in poor form of late.
The New Zealand attack, which promised so much leading up to this series, failed miserably in the first match. Tim Southee – who will undergo a late fitness test before heading to the WACA – and Trent Boult struggled to find their line and length, routinely relieving the pressure was put on at the other end by Mark Craig. Although the off-spinner was targeted by the Australians, he still managed a six-wicket haul on the dusty Gabba surface. He will do well to replicate that form at the WACA, which traditionally hasn’t been kind to the spinners.
The selection panel is faced with a couple of headaches moving forward. Jimmy Neesham is out of the second Test with a back problem and will likely be replaced by Luke Ronchi. The former Western Australian player could provide invaluable experience with none of the current New Zealand side having played a Test at the WACA. His inclusion will likely hinge on whether or not Tim Southee passes a late fitness test. If the opening bowler isn’t fit for the second Test, New Zealand may well have to call up an extra pace option in Matt Henry, Neil Wagner or Mitchell McClenaghan.
The WACA, which was built on old swamp land in 1893, was first utilised as a Test Match venue in December 1970 where Australia hosted England. The wicket will offer plenty of pace and bounce for both sets of quicks. Mitchell Jonson in particular will be looking forward to bowling on this track, the Aussie slinger has taken 42 wickets at an average of 20.19 in the six Tests he played at the venue. It’s also worth mentioning that the WACA has produced results in each of the last eight Tests played on the ground.
Fielding is going to be incredibly tough with temperatures set to soar up 37 degrees during the match. Both teams will want to bat for extended periods of time, exposing the opposition to prolonged periods in the field. Keep an eye out for the famous WACA cracks that tend to appear on day three or four – these can make batting extremely difficult toward the end of the match. Winning the toss will be of the utmost importance here.
Verdict: Top Australia First Innings Batsman – Steve Smith 5/2
I can’t see New Zealand winning this match, to be perfectly honest and Australia don’t offer much value at 7/20. Instead, back Steve Smith top score in Australia’s first innings at 5/2. The Australian captain has been in outstanding form of late. If he gets in early, expect him to bat through the innings, amassing a huge total.