Ten reasons New Zealand can win
Daniel Vettori, all-rounder. The greatest No. 8 batsman in the history of Test cricket is, disappointingly, the prized scalp amongst the fresh New Zealand batting line-up. Putting his headline bowling ability and developing captaincy acumen to one side, even Ricky Ponting will recognise that he is the talisman of our effort too. On the other side of the equation, he won’t be batting at number eight in Brisbane – it looks highly likely he will be forced to ratchet himself up the order one spot to No. 7 to accommodate the smorgasbord of medium pace bowlers needed in the XI.
Jamie How is in form. This hasn't happened for a while – in fact he has not made it to 41 in his past seven Test match innings: 29, 40, 19, 16, 36, 8 and 8. He needs to do a better job as the senior member of his opening pairing with Aaron “Son of Rodney” Redmond.
Jesse Ryder is the new messiah of the Black Caps. The New Zealand version of Greg Ritchie is something of an unknown quantity for Australia, and his magnificent timing and utter disdain for bad bowling augurs well if Watson, Clark and Johnson dish up anything short and/or wide. That belligerent streak can be his Achilles heel of course – a la Craig McMillan he tends to occasionally contract a bit of white crease fever that affects his decision-making.
We are going to pick four pace bowlers. We must do so in order to give ourselves a sniff of winning. The sticky weather in Brisbane this week makes it even more likely. The downside of course is that none of them are Richard Hadlee – and not one of them is Shane Bond either. I think it is time we amended the Bring Back Buck banners (a common sight at all NZ sports events, alluding to rugby player Wayne Shelford’s axing from the All Blacks in 1990). Yes, it is time for the Bring Back Bond banners to start appearing with monotonous regularity.
Simon Katich. Are his nicknames really Stiffler and Duck Blaster? Quite odd. More certain is the fact he is ugly but effective in grinding away at one end, while Hayden bludgeons away at the other. Katich is also much more comfortable against Vettori. Brilliantly rebranded as “Simone Cattick” by an Indian journalist during his recent press conference whinge about negative Indian tactics. In the same news item, the two batting Michelles pop up too: Hussey and Clarke. New Zealand couldn’t be beaten by a pack of girls, surely?
We have the best wicketkeeper in the world. Maybe. Of course he is playing as a top-order batsman so his run-making ability needs to take precedence. A savage player on his day, he will be dreaming about Jason Krezja.
Australia is not a Third World country … so Matthew Hayden should feel comfortable. Complacent even. Completely irrelevant but should get a few bites from rabid Indian fans just for mentioning it.
Our top order is made of the wood that Phil Horne was nicknamed after: balsa. In fact if you took a moment to zero in on our most recent 10 opening batting efforts against Australia you would be holding your head in your hands by the end of it. An average first-wicket partnership of 14.8 means the bar is set quite low for the Gabba.
Ricky Ponting is angry. Very angry. Incandescent with rage. He is set to put the devil in Tasmanian Devil. He has the Peter Roebuck voodoo doll in effect. Rumour has it he might even wear that famous gift from his grandmother under his cream Test shirt on Thursday as well: yep, the “Future Australian captain” t-shirt. Hopefully he is distracted enough to not add too many to the pile of runs that sees him sitting pretty as the most prolific scorer of Test runs at the Gabba in history.
New Zealand have not said anything too stupid in the lead-up. The serial offender, coach John Bracewell, appears to have been completely muzzled or perhaps he is speaking in tongues so complicated even journalists can’t crack the code. (Is Braces actually over there?) Of course, the same reporters have manipulated our players' words and headlines to make it sound like we think the Australians used to be good, but now they're rubbish - sample headlines: “Kiwis claim they have the firepower to tackle Oz top order”, “Hands rubbed with glee as empire looks crumbly”, “Black Caps can be number one” and “NZ zero in on Ponting”.
Paul Ford is a co-founder of the Beige Brigade. He tweets here