Hosts confident as lively pitch beckons
December 9-13, Hobart
Start time 1030 local (2330 GMT)
Australia's victory in Brisbane maintained the momentum built in Sri Lanka then carried - with the exception of a ridiculous couple of hours in Cape Town - in to South Africa. It also confirmed the many and varied deficiencies in New Zealand's Test team, magnified as they were by the Gabba's bounce and movement. The second Test in Hobart affords the visitors a climate and playing surface more familiar to their batsmen, but also a venue at which Australia have excelled - not once have they lost a Test in Tasmania since the first was played in 1989.
Michael Clarke's team barged through New Zealand in less than three full days' playing time at the Gabba, but did so with a fair spread of faults the team is aware of. Australia's catching was flawed, particularly in the first innings, and the return of the fielding coach Steve Rixon to lead drills in Hobart was welcome. Several batsmen, too, will want to improve. Clarke and Ricky Ponting made substantial scores but offered a few chances and half-chances a long the way, while Michael Hussey has not made a Test score of note in five innings since he was the undisputed Man of the Series Sri Lanka. Then of course there are Phillip Hughes' continuing misadventures outside the off stump. Among the bowlers, James Pattinson has plenty to live up to following his barnstorming display in Brisbane, while Mitchell Starc will be seeking the consistency of length and line that would make his swinging, bouncing left-arm deliveries exceedingly dangerous.
New Zealand's struggles in Brisbane felt unbecoming for a team coached by a man as thorough and shrewd as John Wright, and more in line with the flighty batting of their captain Ross Taylor. The tourists' lack of Test cricket in 2011 played a large part in the manner of the defeat, as a sound first two days gave way to an abject conclusion in the face of an Australian team that did not relent. Dean Brownlie, at least, showed a neat technique and an example to the rest of the batsmen, while Doug Bracewell's whole-hearted bowling would have been far more successful without a consistently risky flirtation with the front crease line. Brendon McCullum's aggression at the top of the order was inadequately substantial, and as a whole the batsmen left far too much for Brownlie and Daniel Vettori to do. Greater application will be needed in Hobart, including the awareness of off stump that Wright has spoken of. Chris Martin was as sturdy as ever with the ball, and will again be seeking to clip Hughes off the top of the Australian batting order.
Form guide(most recent first)
New Zealand: LWDLL
In the spotlight
No-one can question Phillip Hughes' appetite for runs, but he is so often out fencing at deliveries going across him before there is time to complete the entrée. On a Hobart surface that was still verdant green on match eve, it is guaranteed that Martin's right-arm seam and swing will again pose the questions that Hughes was unable to answer in Brisbane. In the words of the coach Mickey Arthur, Hughes' difficulties are of a nature that "will not go away", and after this series Ishant Sharma will be as keen as Martin to exploit them. So Hughes must show evidence of improvement sooner rather than later, or no amount of impassioned support from his captain Clarke will save him.
Ross Taylor reasoned there would be changes to his team if there is not strong improvement on an ailing performance in Brisbane. Based on the pair of shots he played to be out to Pattinson in both innings, Taylor should not be immune from scrutiny himself. A tremendous shot-making talent, his looseness was not the example to set for a young team, particularly behind a No. 3 in Kane Williamson who looked out of his depth on a surface offering bounce. In the field Taylor made some decent bowling changes but dropped a catch. The improvement of the team's Test match fortunes is going to have to start with the captain.
Pitch and conditions
Hobart surfaces tend to alternate between very flat and very lively, and the sight of a strip of similar colour and grass coverage to the outfield suggests the second Test pitch will fall into the latter category. The pace and bounce will not be on quite the same level as Brisbane's, while a colder climate may prevent a repeat of the sharp swing gained by Pattinson on day four at the Gabba.
Australia named an unchanged side on match eve, removing all doubt about the potential of the 12th man Daniel Christian to be brought in for Hughes.
Australia 1 David Warner, 2 Phillip Hughes, 3 Usman Khawaja, 4 Ricky Ponting, 5 Michael Clarke (capt), 6 Michael Hussey, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 Peter Siddle, 9 James Pattinson, 10 Mitchell Starc, 11 Nathan Lyon.
New Zealand appear likely to give another chance to the XI that struggled for traction in Brisbane, reasoning that the players entered the first Test in good enough touch and must better organise their mental approach to Test cricket and Australia.
New Zealand (probable) 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Brendon McCullum, 3 Kane Williamson, 4 Ross Taylor (capt), 5 Jesse Ryder, 6 Dean Brownlie, 7 Daniel Vettori, 8 Reece Young (wk), 9 Doug Bracewell, 10 Tim Southee, 11 Chris Martin.
Stats & trivia
- Australia's unchanged team is their first since taking the same XI that won the third Ashes Test in Perth last summer into the fourth Test in Melbourne. An innings defeat and the loss of the urn eventuated.
- Ricky Ponting returns to the scene of his previous Test century, 209 against Pakistan in January 2010. He is without a hundred in 29 innings since.
- Chris Martin's second-innings duck gave him the most in Tests between Australia and New Zealand, eight to surpass Danny Morrison's seven.
- Though Australia have never lost a Test in Hobart, New Zealand have managed to scrape draws from two of the three Tests they have played at the ground - the other an innings defeat in 1993.
"If the wicket doesn't change much from what I see, and it's still a little bit tacky and there's [overcast] overhead conditions I'll bowl first, but I've said that a few times and then got out there and batted. The two things I find hard: bowling first when I win the toss, and not picking a spinner."
Michael Clarke assesses the Hobart surface and conditions
"We have a good fielding outfit and we were disappointed to let our standards slip. The guys set very high standards in the field. When things aren't going so well it's something we rely on to get us going. We've put in some hard work since Brisbane."
Swing bowler Tim Southee on New Zealand's faulty fielding
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo