Written by Jason Dewey for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!
New Zealand vs Australia | Friday 19 February – Tuesday 23 February | Hagley Oval | 23:00
Following their innings and 52 run defeat at the hands of Australia in the first Test, the Black Caps will need to regroup and come back stronger against an Australian side that looks set to claim the ICC Test Championship Mace.
Can the Aussies put the gloss on what has been a fantastic season for them or will the Black Caps send Brendon McCullum into international retirement with a win over their fiercest rivals?
To Win Match
New Zealand 2/1
It’s back to the drawing board for the New Zealanders following their drubbing at the Basin Reserve in Wellington. A barrage of excellent seam bowling on the first morning of the Wellington Test saw the hosts skittled out for a well below-par score of 183. Only Corey Anderson, Trent Boult and Mark Craig put up any sort of resistance as Josh Hazlewood, Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon did the damage with the ball.
Looking ahead, the Black Caps will need to put in a much-improved display with the bat in hand. In decent batting conditions, the hosts only managed two half-centuries in the first Test. Against what is probably one of the best Test batting line-ups in the world, they simply need to do better.
Following a particularly rubbish first innings, there were signs of life in the second. Tom Latham and Martin Guptill were watchful as they inched their way forward to 81 before Nathan Lyon struck to get rid of the latter. There were also solid performances from the likes of Nicholls, Southee and Craig, however, with none of the top and middle order digging in and putting on a big score, saving the Test was never going to be a reality.
The hosts would have taken some encouragement from their performance with the ball in hand, however. Their lines and lengths were unerring in the face of an immensely strong Aussie batting line-up, which in honesty, got the better of them in this Test. Still, Southee, Boult, Anderson, Craig and Dough Bracewell all managed to pick up two wickets apiece without giving too much away.
Looking ahead to the next encounter, I’m not sure there will be any changes. The hosts put in a solid enough display without setting the world alight. They’re still a settled unit capable of beating any team in world cricket on their day. I expect them to fight back well and at the very least, make more of a contest of the next game.
Full marks have to go to the Aussies who put in the sort of performance you’d expect from what is widely regarded as the best Test side in the world. Adam Voges and Usman Khawaja put on a batting masterclass as they propelled their side’s first innings total to 562, effectively putting the game out of reach of the Black Caps.
Voges was particularly ruthless following his early no-ball reprieve. He would go on to score a massive 239 – eclipsing the entire New Zealand first innings score by 56 runs. Khawaja was at his brilliant best again as his golden summer continued. He managed to put on a stylish 140 as he targeted the off side with a series of beautifully timed drives and cuts.
There was also return to form for Nathan Lyon who had put in a few indifferent performances in his last couple of limited-overs outings. His ability to consistently hit a smallish footmark outside the right-handers’ off stump ensured that he spun the ball sharply more often than not – this accuracy was echoed in his match figures of 7-123.
Australia will be without Peter Siddle for the second Test after he injured his back in Wellington. We might, however, see a return to action for James Pattinson who hasn’t played a Test since the Aussies trounced the West Indies earlier this year. He will likely lead the attack along with Hazelwood with the rather innocuous Jackson Bird coming on at first change. One thing that Pattinson will offer is genuine out-and-out pace. Capable of reaching speeds of 150 kph, the tall quick hits the deck hard and the bat even harder. He’ll no doubt be raring to go on a wicket that will no doubt suit his skillset – expect the cordon to have their hands full.
The only change I can foresee heading into the Christchurch Test in the Pattinson-Siddle straight swap. It would be unwise for the Australian selectors to tinker with a side that put in such a strong performance last time out. Their top and middle order more than makes up for their supposed inefficiencies with the ball.
The Venue: Hagley Oval
The beautiful Hagley Oval has only hosted one other Test in its 149-year history. In that match in 2014, McCullum recorded an incredible 134-ball 195 as the hosts crushed the touring Sri Lankans by eight wickets.
The first two days of the match are sold out, so expect vociferous support for the Black Caps and their outgoing captain. As is the case with most decks in New Zealand, you can expect the ball to swing early on before batting conditions become a bit easier. I doubt the wicket will prove to be as green as the one at the Basin Reserve, though. While no rain is predicted for the match, there will be heavy cloud cover throughout most of day one and on day four. Expect the toss to play a vital role in this one as overhead conditions and a greenish deck will make batting tricky.
Verdict: Australia 9/10
Australia are an immensely good Test side at the minute. Looking through their squad, you’d struggle to find any real weakness aside from Jackson Bird, who in fairness has very little experience at this level. At 9/10, they look excellent value to send Brendon McCullum into international retirement with his tail between his legs. Back the Aussies at 9/10.
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