New Zealand's opportunity for redemption
After being thrashed in the two Tests, New Zealand have an opportunity to salvage something from the tour when the three-match Chappell-Hadlee one-day series gets underway at the Telstra Dome in Melbourne on Sunday. Stephen Fleming has been at the receiving end so far, but he will be buoyed by the quality of reinforcements which have arrived to bolster the squad, as also by his team's recent performances in the one-dayers.
New Zealand have lost only two of their last 20 ODIs, a record which is in stark contrast to their dismal run in Tests - seven defeats in 11 matches. Chris Cairns and Chris Harris should add spark to the line-up, but it's unfair to expect them to completely alter the fortunes of a side which has so far been a distant second-best to the Australians.
So confident are the Australians going into this series, that they have decided to rest their first-choice new-ball pair of Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie for the first match. With Shane Warne having retired from one-dayers - he handed over his No. 23 shirt to Michael Clarke on the eve of the game - it means that Australia will not have three of the four bowlers who tormented New Zealand during the Tests.
What it also means, though, is that Brett Lee will be back. He hasn't played in Australian colours since the ICC Champions Trophy a couple of months back, and will be champing at the bit to have a go at the New Zealanders. Speaking to the media before the match, Ricky Ponting backed Lee to deliver, but also cautioned against expecting too much in Lee's comeback match.
"He knows he's ready to go, but he just hasn't been given that opportunity yet," Ponting said. "But there's no doubt that during these three games his chance is going to come to get out there and play some cricket for Australia again." Impressive performances here will also make him a strong contender for the first Test against Pakistan on the pacy WACA pitch in Perth.
Both teams announced their playing XI well before the match. Australia included Shane Watson, Brad Hogg and Andrew Symonds, while New Zealand brought in Ian Butler and Hamish Marshall.
Explaining the inclusions of Marshall and Butler, John Bracewell, the New Zealand coach, said: "Hamish's one-day record has been excellent for us. We want to have a look at him at No. 5 for the purpose of strike rotation and we think that No. 5 is where he will eventually be best suited.
"Butler is keen on a game of cricket. These tours can be frustrating when there are not many lead-up games. But this gives him a good opportunity to start the series."
Australia 1 Adam Gilchrist (wk), 2 Matthew Hayden, 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Damien Martyn, 5 Darren Lehmann, 6 Michael Clarke, 7 Andrew Symonds, 8 Shane Watson, 9 Brett Lee, 10 Brad Hogg, 11 Michael Kasprowicz.
New Zealand 1 Stephen Fleming (capt), 2 Nathan Astle, 3 Mathew Sinclair, 4 Scott Styris, 5 Hamish Marshall, 6 Chris Cairns, 7 Jacob Oram, 8 Brendon McCullum (wk), 9 Daniel Vettori, 10 Kyle Mills, 11 Ian Butler.