A busy summer continues for the Australian cricket team as a series against the old foe begins with little time to catch breath.
It has been a difficult week for the Australian side. Three straight Twenty20 losses to India isn’t ideal preparation for a tour, but the quick turnaround between series impacted that series’ outcome.
David Warner, Steve Smith, and fellow key Australian batsman were given the final two matches against India off to allow them to travel to New Zealand earlier and get used to the conditions. Others didn’t leave Australia until after the final Twenty20 clash against India on Sunday night. The Australians held their first training session on Monday morning in Auckland with the full squad having finally assembled, just two days before the series opener against New Zealand.
It is a big tour for Steve Smith in particular as it will be his first major tour as captain of the Australian cricket team. Smith is leading a relatively young side in New Zealand and doesn’t have the experience of either Mitchell Starc, a proven strike bowler against New Zealand, or Aaron Finch, the second big power hitter at the top of the order.
Finch suffered a hamstring injury in the second Twenty20 against India and has been replaced by in form batsman Usman Khawaja.
Mitchell Starc was devastating the last time Australia played against New Zealand at Eden Park in Auckland. On that day last February, Starc had figures of 6-28 and very nearly pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in cricket history. His absence, from a stand point of being able to fool some of the best batsmen in the New Zealand squad, will be greatly missed.
As vice-captain, a lot rests on the shoulders of David Warner against New Zealand. The short boundaries of Eden Park will suit Warner and look for Australia to bat first because Warner can find the boundary even on the most swinging of pitches. The question now becomes, who partners Warner at the top of the order? Both Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh are options.
On the bowling front, Josh Hazlewood leads the Australian attack but is still very fresh in his career. New Zealand need to target the pace attack and score early runs before facing the experienced off-spinner Nathan Lyon. However, with Lyon, the Black Caps’ batsmen shouldn’t be afraid of walking down the pitch and playing their shots because, as seen against India, Lyon is clearly still finding his rhythm in the shorter form of the game.
New Zealand are in red hot form at home this summer, and if Australia are to have a chance of winning the series, the experienced heads need to lead from the front.