Australia vs New Zealand Tests 2019: Things to watch out for
The trans-Tasman rivalry is set to resume with a three-Test series starting on December 12. Perth, Melbourne, and Sydney are the venues for the three Tests between Australia and New Zealand that are also a part of the World Test Championships.
Apart from the rivalry, the current form of both these teams make this series interesting. The Australians are flying high after the returns of David Warner and Steve Smith, reclaiming the Ashes on English soil and thrashing Pakistan 2-0 in one of the most one-sided series ever. The Kiwis are also high on confidence beating England 1-0 in a hard-fought series, with most players contributing to the win.
Key players and contests
Any team that wishes to beat Australia has to find a way to get through David Warner at the top of the order and then Steve Smith, the generation's best Test batsman. And not to forget Marnus Labuschagne. Having come in as a concussion substitute during the Ashes, he has cemented his place at number three and is the highest scorer this year in Test cricket.
New Zealand have bowlers who can trouble the Australian batting lineup. However, the fitness of Trent Boult, who didn't play the second Test against England due to a side strain, will be a cause for concern.
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Another key battle will be between the Australian pace attack and the New Zealand top order. Jeet Raval had a tough time in the series against England while Tom Latham, despite his hundred in the second Test, looked tentative. How the two openers and Kane Williamson handle the pace troika of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood will go a long way in deciding the outcome of the series.
Australia will play the same team that decimated Pakistan in the recently-concluded Test series, with Joe Burns and David Warner opening the batting, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Matthew Wade, and Travis Head forming the middle order. Skipper Tim Paine will handle the wicket-keeping gloves while Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, and Nathan Lyon form the bowling attack.
New Zealand also have a settled lineup except for the fitness concerns of Trent Boult and Colin de Grandhomme.
Considering the pace and bounce of the pitch at Perth, New Zealand may give a Test debut to Lockie Ferguson, who will extract a bit more out of the track at Perth rather than someone like Tim Southee, who is more of a swing bowler.
One front on which the Kiwis may struggle in this series will be finding a fifth bowling option. Grandhomme, with his 'military medium', will not be as effective as he is in New Zealand, where the wickets assist seam movement. So we may well see New Zealand shifting to a combination of six specialist batsmen, a keeper in BJ Watling, a spin-bowling allrounder in Santner and three quicks as the series progresses. Williamson, with his part-time off-spin, can play the role of the fifth bowler if needed.
However, for the first Test, New Zealand is expected to go with what they feel is their best eleven. Jeet Raval and Tom Latham are expected to open the batting. Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, and the in-form BJ Watling will provide solidity to the middle order. Mitchell Santner and Colin de Grandhomme are the two allrounders, and three among Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, and Lockie Ferguson will form a potent bowling lineup.
Prediction: In terms of the series scoreline, Australia should have just enough in them to clinch the series 2-1 with Steve Smith and Kane Williamson competing for the player-of-the-series award.
Published 10 Dec 2019, 01:47 IST