New Zealand vs Australia | Wednesday 3 February | Eden Park | 02:30
After being shelved for the better part of six years in its traditional form, the Chappell-Hadlee trophy will finally be back up for grabs in a bi-lateral series. There was much fanfare at the announcement of the trophy back in 2004, which was supposed to be competed for on an annual basis, similar to the manner in which the Bledisloe Cup is contested.
However, over the years congested fixture schedules have meant that the sides have generally competed for the trophy during World Cup and Champions Trophy fixtures. The trophy currently sits in New Zealand’s cabinet after their group stage win at last year’s World Cup, however, the Aussies will be desperate to win it back and send Brendon McCullum into international retirement with his tail between his legs.
To Win Match
New Zealand 27/20
All eyes will be on Brendon McCullum as he uses this series to bring the curtain down on an illustrious international career that has spanned just over 14 years. In that time, he has established himself as one of the most dangerous batsmen in world cricket. Brash, unpredictable and wholly belligerent, the Otago-native will be licking his lips at the prospect of facing a second-string Australian bowling attack at the relatively small Eden Park on Wednesday morning.
It’s not only McCullum who the Aussie bowlers are going to have to try and contain. The likes of Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson and Colin Munro have all shown magnificent form over the last two inbound tours.
Guptill has been particularly good to watch this summer. The Aucklander has helped himself to 504 runs in his last five One Day Internationals and five T20 Internationals against Sri Lanka and more recently, Pakistan. The highlight of those two series was no doubt his 171-run opening stand with Kane Williamson against Pakistan in the second T20. Brilliantly destructive and measured in his ruthlessness, Guptill will have a massive part to play if New Zealand are to get one over their more illustrious neighbours.
If Guptill is the pugnacious aggressor, Williamson is the elegant stroke-maker, capable of piercing gaps in the field as soon as a bowler errs ever so slightly in line and length. The 25-year-old is particularly strong square of the wicket on the off-side and uses the crease well to manipulate line and length to his advantage. He’s in the form of his life at the moment and is probably the best limited overs batsman on the planet right now behind Virat Kohli.
It’s not only the Black Caps’ top order that can take apart the Aussie bowlers, the likes of Munro, Grant Elliot, Corey Anderson and Luke Ronchi are all more than capable of clearing the boundary rope and putting on big scores as was illustrated in their recently concluded series against Pakistan.
While New Zealand’s strength definitely lies with their incredible top order, they do have one or two bowlers who can cause the Australian batsmen issues. Trent Boult will likely spearhead the attack with his ability to move the ball both ways.
The Kiwi management have also included young legspinner, Ish Sodhi in the squad. Although his numbers don’t suggest he’ll be a top international bowler, the New Zealand selectors have seen enough in the young man from India to give him a crack. He generates decent turn, however, it’s the flight he offers that can either bring him success, or see him concede far too many runs. He will need to be spot on against the likes of David Warner and Steve Smith who are both prestigious players of spin.
New Zealand probably won’t have a better chance at beating the Australians than they do right now. The squad is settled and has seen massive success in the last 12 months. Add this to the fact that they’ve their last four bi-lateral ODI series at home and we could well be an absolute humdinger of a series.
The Australians are going through a bit of a strange transitional phase at the moment. With injuries to the likes of Mitchell Starc and Nathan Coulter-Nile, they’ve been heavily reliant on unproven international bowlers such as Scott Boland and John Hasting in their recent series against India.
They played brilliantly well in the ODI segment of that tour winning 4-1 before slumping to a 3-0 whitewash in the T20s. They will also be without Aaron Finch for what appears to be the remainder of the tour after the big opener picked up a hamstring injury in the second T20 against India.
Still though, it’s not all doom and gloom for the Aussies who will welcome back David Warner and Steve Smith to the side. Those two alone are more than capable of taking the game away from the New Zealanders in the blink of an eye – and should they occupy the crease for any amount of time, the Black Caps could well be chasing leather tomorrow morning.
Interestingly enough, the Australians have already announced the side that will do duty against their Trans-Tasman rivals tomorrow morning. Shaun Marsh will partner Warner at the top of the innings after some good performances against India. That means that Usman Khawaja will be forced to watch from the dugout. Boland and Adam Zampa won’t feature either with James Faulkner, Hastings, Kane Richardson and the returning Josh Hazlewood making up a four-pronged pace attack.
The balance of the overs will likely be bowled by Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Marsh with Smith on hand to bowl his legspinners if there are any on-field issues.
If the Australians are going to go 1-0 up in the three-match series, they’re going to need their top five to fire. The Marsh brothers, Warner, Smith, George Bailey and Maxwell are all more than capable at this level and should enjoy playing on the relatively small grounds in New Zealand.
The Venue: Eden Park
Eden Park offers plenty of opportunity for batsmen to score runs, although there could well be a bit of swing in the air for the likes of Boult, Anderson and Hazlewood to exploit.
Like many of the grounds in New Zealand, it’s not particularly large and we could see the rope cleared on a regular basis. Local weather stations have indicated that there shouldn’t be any rain about with a maximum temperature of 27C forecast for the day.
Verdict: New Zealand 27/20
The Australians will be slightly down on confidence after the manner in which they were trounced in the recent T20 series against India. That said, they do have some of their more senior players coming back into the squad after being rested in those defeats. New Zealand will be brimming with confidence after recently smashing both Sri Lanka and Pakistan. With home ground advantage and vociferous support at the ground, I’m backing the Black Caps to go 1-0 up in the three-match series tomorrow. You should too!
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