Australia v New Zealand, 3rd Test, Adelaide November 25, 2015

NZ drink in atmosphere ahead of key Test

Melinda Farrell

Play 02:34
'Santner and Wagner will be seriously considered' - Hesson

One of the most commonly used words in the build up to a Test match is "preparation". Individual preparation, team preparation, mental preparation.

But in a week that has been overshadowed by the colour of a ball, the sinking of the sun, the glare of artificial lights and - in a quieter way - the absence of a player tragically lost, there has been a subtle difference in the way the two teams have prepared for this defining Test.

While Australia have trained all week in the familiar surrounds of the Adelaide Oval, New Zealand chose a more relaxed path in an effort to refresh minds and bodies.

In fact, until Wednesday, all but four of the squad had only glimpsed the Adelaide Oval from the plane and from their hotel across the Torrens River.

The day after arriving on Monday, most of the squad enjoyed an organised tour of a local vineyard in this famous wine-producing district (though most refrained from actually tasting). But it would be a mistake to think a perusal of sauvignon blancs and cabernets means New Zealand are taking this match lightly. This side hasn't lost a series since suffering a 2-0 trouncing in England back in 2013 and it is a streak they have no intention of breaking.

The New Zealand camp clearly hope the break and relaxed approach will prove to be the best way to avoid the hype surrounding the inaugural day-night Test and, at 1-0 down, they are keen to remain focused on squaring the series amid the distraction of making history.

"It's a big Test match for us," Mike Hesson, New Zealand's coach, said. "I know it's the first day-night Test but it's also the third one of the series and it's really important for us.

"This is our eighth series since being defeated and that's something we hold pretty strong as a group so we'll be doing everything we can over the next five days to put Australia under pressure firstly and then hopefully force a result towards the back end."

The week has been dominated by endless scrutiny of the pitch and speculation on how the ball will behave at it wears and tears and at certain times of the day and night. But Hesson is comfortable his players are adaptable enough to deal with the unknown.

"I think that happens in every Test match," Hesson said. "There are a lot of variables. The surface is always unknown anyway. How the ball reacts at certain times of the day is unknown. This is just another little unknown factor.

"I think the thing with this group is that we just deal with the next session and when you go into that session you can discuss the possible permutations of how things might unfold. But we never think too far ahead and even though we've got a little bit of information we don't have all of it so we don't pretend we do. We just play the next hour as best we can."

The New Zealanders are the first to admit that, at times in this series, several players have underperformed and that, apart from the ever-steady Kane Williamson, they have been guilty of inconsistency. And while they shift uncomfortably every time their reputation as slow starters is mentioned, it wasn't until the second day at the WACA that things seemed to fall into place.

Perhaps the improvement, particularly with their batsmen, is as much to do with mental readjustments as any technical tinkering.

Ross Taylor's turnaround was the most dramatic as he shook off the shackles of a run of frustrating form to score a breathtaking 290 in Perth. A notably superstitious player, Taylor had cast away his regular bat before the Test and took a brand new one to the crease, hopeful it would bring new luck. It may have brought about a psychological shift. It certainly worked.

After the second Test, Martin Guptill, who has averaged 16.00 so far in this series (around half his career Test average), was encouraged by the coaching staff to play with the freedom he exhibits in the 50-over format and promptly spanked the pink ball for 103 runs off 109 balls in the warm up match before retiring.

"Martin Guptill got a really good hundred the other day and played the way that he and I want him to play," Hesson said. "So I think, hopefully, he could be ready for something big."

And, apart from an admirable half-century - forged in difficult circumstances - during the second innings at the Gabba, Australia hasn't seen the brutal best of Brendon McCullum in this series. But the New Zealand captain blasted any cobwebs by smashing 49 runs off 28 deliveries in the warm up match ahead of this Test.

It is, of course, more difficult to play with freedom and authenticity - the Blackcaps buzzword - when scoreboard pressure looms large and heavy and, if Australia's batsmen dominate from the start once more, New Zealand's unbeaten streak will be seriously threatened.

But should New Zealand bat first, or a fully fit bowling attack - led by swing masters Trent Boult and Tim Southee - find favour with the pink ball and lush conditions, Hesson's refreshed troops may take encouragement from their 2011 victory in Hobart.

"There are a number of players who played in that game so we know that Australia are vulnerable like everybody else when you put them under pressure," Hesson said. "And I think as a batting unit we haven't been able to put them under pressure yet so, once we do that, we'll find out how they respond."

While the Trans-Tasman trophy will be staying in Australia, to go an eighth series without defeat would certainly be something for New Zealand to celebrate. And If New Zealand do hit their straps at precisely the right time and their preparations prove to be successful, perhaps it will be worth revisiting that vineyard to purchase a case of the region's finest bubbly.

Melinda Farrell is a reporter for ESPNcricinfo

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