Advantage Australia at the Gabba
They may have "fewer battle scars", but few would bet on New Zealand to pull off their first win in Australia in 23 years when the first Test gets underway in Brisbane on Thursday. In 28 Tests since that Perth victory in 1985-86, New Zealand have won only three times - all at home - drawn 12 and lost 13. It's been 15 years, or 17 Tests, that New Zealand have been winless against Australia. They last won in March 1993 in Auckland, and have suffered 11 losses since. (Click here to view New Zealand's past results in Australia.)
Another hurdle that faces New Zealand is the Gabba, a venue where Australia have been unbeaten for 19 Tests. Since West Indies beat them in 1988-89, Australia have won 14 Tests, with four victories in the last four seasons. Daniel Vettori and his team, though, would rather prefer to look back to that series win in 1985-86, when they won by an innings and 41 runs in Brisbane, New Zealand's biggest win over Australia. New Zealand also drew all three Tests during their visit in 2000-01, and since then Australia have failed to win a Test in a series just once: the recent debacle in India. Only India have drawn three Tests in Australia since 2000 - they have played nine to New Zealand's five - while losses dominate the records for the rest.
Australia's record in 2008 may not be too daunting - three wins, three losses and three draws - but New Zealand haven't performed any better: they have won four and lost four of their ten, but three of those wins came against Bangladesh. Only five of each side's players have faced their trans-Tasman rivals in a Test before.
One big plus for Australia is the return of Andrew Symonds; his average of 74.37 in six Tests is the best for them this year: Simon Katich is the only other batsman with an average over 50. The worrying fact for the hosts is that their bowlers (apart from Jason Krejza with 29.83) have all gone at over 30 this year, with their fast bowlers unable to make an impression in India. For New Zealand, it's Vettori who's been their stand-out performer this year. Only Ross Taylor has scored more runs than him, and Vettori also leads the bowling charts, with 39 wickets at 25.53. The encouraging fact for New Zealand is that Iain O'Brien, Chris Martin and Kyle Mills have also been in the wickets, and even if you exclude Tests against Bangladesh, New Zealand's bowling unit have performed better than Australia. (Australia's bowlers, though, have played in tougher conditions in West Indies and India, while New Zealand played at home and in England.)
Brett Lee struggled in India; however, he had 40 wickets at an astounding average of 20.57 in Australia's home series against Sri Lanka and India last summer: he won the series prize for both. Symonds took 11 wickets at 25.27, and Stuart Clark and Mitchell Johnson had over 20 wickets each at over 30 apiece. Symonds was their main force with the bat, with 513 runs at 85.50, and four of their batsmen averaged over 60.
Australia have only lost four of the 28 Tests when they have won the toss at the Gabba. On the other hand, opposition teams have won only four of the 22 Tests when they have won the toss. Australia have won 17 of the 32 Tests when they have batted first; New Zealand have lost all four doing so. In eight Tests since 2000, Australia have won the toss twice, fielding first and winning against West Indies in 2000-01 and batting first against England in 2006-07. Whenever the opposition has won the toss, they have put Australia in, resulting in four defeats and two draws.
|Australia winning the toss||28||18||4||6|
|Australia losing the toss||22||12||4||5||1|
Australia's dominance is clearly reflected in the average runs per wicket, with a yawning gap between them and the opposition during their unbeaten streak.
|Period||Australia's average||Opposition's average|
Pace v Spin
The stats may not encourage Vettori too much, but being a spinner he might want to bowl in the fourth innings, although wet weather in the lead-up might prompt him to bowl first.
|Innings||Wickets for pace bowlers||Average||Economy-rate||Wickets for spinners||Average||Economy-rate|
Mathew Varghese is sub-editor (stats) at Cricinfo