Australia in New Zealand 2015-16 January 8, 2016

Australia push for No. 1 with little prep time


Steven Smith's team will not have a practice game in New Zealand before the Test series © Getty Images

Australia captain Steven Smith and his deputy David Warner will expect their team to adapt to New Zealand conditions without the assistance of a tour match as preparation, for a series in which the visitors can claim the No. 1 Test ranking.

Much was made of the poor preparation granted to both New Zealand and West Indies on their visits to Australia this summer - Brendon McCullum's side was humbugged by a Blacktown pitch they deemed unplayable, while Jason Holder's team had only one warm-up match in Brisbane before being badly beaten in Hobart. Australia's trip across the Tasman has an even skimpier lead-in.

A Sheffield Shield match between New South Wales and Western Australia is set to be played in Lincoln near Christchurch to afford adaptation opportunities for some members of the Test squad. However, Smith and Warner are among those set to be occupied by the concurrent ODI series that precedes the Tests, and Smith said he expected his players to find other ways to adapt.

"There's a lot of ways where you can replicate what you're going to get," Smith said. "You can get soft balls and get them to swing, you can bat on grass against spinners for subcontinent where the ball does unpredictable things, so things like that where you can work on what you're likely to face and try to find a way to be successful against it.

"I've had a few chats about it to some of the boys. I think when you're under pressure you go back to what you know. I think that can hurt you a little bit sometimes away from home, I think you almost have to find another way to do things, whether that be playing in England and New Zealand making sure you're playing under your eyes ... that's one thing I've spoken about to a few of the boys.

"We've always played quite well at home but the challenge for us is to make sure we're winning series away from home, and that starts with a tough series for us in New Zealand. Hopefully we can adapt to the conditions we're going to be faced with in New Zealand, I dare say they're going to have a bit of grass on them and they're going to swing a little bit so we're going to have to be better than we have been previously on those sorts of wickets, hopefully we can adapt well."

A win over New Zealand away - something Australia have achieved in every attempt since a drawn series in 1993 - would propel Smith's team to the top of the ICC rankings, provided England defeat South Africa in the series they presently lead 1-0. In the case of a drawn series between those two countries, Australia could claim top spot by defeating New Zealand 2-0. The stakes are high.

When asked whether he would prefer to play in the Shield match rather than the ODI series as a better way to get used to New Zealand climes, Warner said it was important Australia played their strongest side in the 50-over matches. At the forefront of his mind was Australia's loss to New Zealand at a raucous Eden Park during last year's World Cup.

"We're trying to win series for our country," Warner said. "The one-day series is going to be obviously the first thing we play over there and we're going to try and set out to win that. I look back at Eden Park during the World Cup and we were quite poor there. That's something we've got to try and be better at - winning away from home. We're definitely going to put our best team on the park.

"It's going to be not too dissimilar to England I think. It's going to be swinging conditions but I think the wickets are probably going to be a bit greener. We saw the wicket against Sri Lanka where it was sort of green day one, day two then actually flattened out a little bit. I think it spun from memory.

"We've got to go over there and play with the same intent we do here in Australia. We know the swinging conditions are probably going to favour them a little bit more than us. We've got to be on top of our game to beat them over there at their home."

Warner joined the Australian ODI squad that flew to Perth on Friday ahead of the five-match series against India, though his wife Candice is nearly due to give birth to their second child. "Fingers crossed it comes when it's due," Warner said. "That's later towards the end of this month. I'm just looking forward to playing the first couple of one-dayers and obviously I'll be by the phone waiting for that phone call."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on January 11, 2016, 3:28 GMT

    Being neutral, I don't mind which side wins, but there are some things I'm looking forward to watching. One is Kane Williamson against the Australian attack. Williamson is playing really well at the moment so this will be quite a battle. Another is how well the Australian batting goes against the NZ seamers on wickets doing a bit.

    These are two very good sides and the games should be really entertaining. It's hard to choose between them. Australia is missing Starc but Boult hasn't been bowling that well and Southee has an injury, so nothing for either side there. Mitch Marsh is going to decide a series soon and it might be this one. On the other hand, McCullum can win a game in a couple of hours if he really gets going. It's too close to call, which is great for cricket.

  • Wayne on January 10, 2016, 0:43 GMT

    @kiwicricketnut. All understood but a 3 wicket win is just that. A lot of "ifs" and "buts" that I don't usually enter into. It's natural for a team that loses to look for and focus on the "pivotal moment". That's what losing is about. We've certainly been on the end of those "pivotal moments" before and I'd rather look at it as swings and roundabouts rather than getting lucky or not. Good sides make their own luck and you have to admit that the black caps dropped their bundle after that particular decision went against them. The truly good sides are ruthless and don't let things like that influence their play even if it ultimately influences the outcome of the match . So be it. IMO that decision didn't influence the outcome but the fact that NZ couldn't take 20 wickets, despite favorable bowling conditions, did. I don't see myself being defensive as such, just tired of the continual harping on this that some go on with. Lets move on to the next controversy. Maybe it's our turn next.

  • Jamie on January 9, 2016, 21:10 GMT

    There's no question about it. That ridiculous Lyon decision in the Adelaide test cost NZ that match and a drawn series. They barely hung on in the end to win it and those extra runs they scored were pivotal. So you aussies who keen harping on about NZ being sore losers and ungracious in defeat should man up and admit what you know to be true- no if's or could of's- that decision cost us the match- simple as that- no debate. I really hope we beat you in this series. Why most other countries will support us and can't stand your team is their arrogant attitude.. David Warner is the worst.

  • nikhil on January 9, 2016, 20:20 GMT

    @eyballfallenout- Hi. Thats good attitude to have :-) heres my opinion- A good start for your team would be 1)not prepare moribund, slow dead wickets at home and play WI 5 times a year. These are meaningless games that give technically suspect batsmen like Warner, Smith, Voges Etc a falsesense of security. No wonder they all struggle when the ball does a bit. They all have terrible recorde overseas. 2) The coach and captain should not make ridiculous claims like "These were toughest batting conditions ever" or "This pitch is unfair because its not a road and it exposed our inadequacies". 3) try and adapt to conditions and not be stubborn in the style of play. It is one of the major reasons why the Aus Cricket team keeps facing whitewashes in Asia, and struggle to compete for longer than 2 days in places like England and top teams like SA(who regularly beat Aus inAus). Hope my comments are taken in the right spirit. Seasons greetings to all. Please Post,Cricinfo. Many thanks

  • Heramb on January 9, 2016, 15:35 GMT

    Australia has 3 away series lined up before the 2017 CT in England.So OZ selectors plumping for O'Keefe and playing 2 spinners in Sydney against WI shows that they are already looking ahead to their upcoming tours of SL in 2016 and India in 2016-17. Agree with CARLWHYTE that though Australia may regain the No.1 Test ranking in NZ next month,a series win in India in 2016-17 will justify their No.1 ranking.The current No.1 Test team SA were found woefully short in their ability to handle the quality spin bowling of Ashwin,Mishra and Jadeja,though the pitches were blamed for SA's ineptitude as has always been the case when a non-SC team is badly beaten in the SC.If not for rain,a 4-0 whitewash awaited SA,akin to what India achieved against Australia at home in 2012-13,though that Indian team featured Tendulkar and partly Sehwag and Harbhajan. OZ last won a Test in India in Nagpur in 2004-05 and Lyon's performance on the 2016-17 tour will be crucial as Aussie fans consider him world-class.

  • Heramb on January 9, 2016, 14:59 GMT

    Agree with you CARLWHYTE. Australia look all set to regain the No.1 Test ranking last held by them in 2009,though this time round,NZ will be a much bigger challenge than they have been to OZ ever before.There was a time in the 1950s and 1960s when Australia did not consider India and NZ worthy Test opponents.India did not tour OZ for 20 years after its 1st tour in 1947-48.NZ's win in Hobart in 2011-12 was its first in OZ in 26 years since their epic Test series win orchestrated by Hadlee in 1985-86.NZ has not won a single home Test against OZ in the 21st century losing 3-0 in 1999-00 and 2-0 twice in 2004-05 and 2-0 in 2009-10.But with Boult,Southee,Williamson and Taylor,this NZ team will look to give Baz a fitting farewell series win.NZ has had some memorable drawn series away-1-1 in SL in 2012-13,1-1 vs Pakistan in UAE in 2014-15 and 1-1 in England in 2015 but barring couple of series wins in WI in 2002 and 2014,NZ hasn't been great away.Hoping NZ can win at home against Australia.

  • carl on January 9, 2016, 11:16 GMT

    @KIWICRICKETNUT Yes NZ were a tad unlucky in the pink ball test on a very green Adelaide wicket, but one you think any other country would have served up ideal conditions for your guys to grab a test win?

  • carl on January 9, 2016, 11:13 GMT

    I know if Oz gets the #1 there will be some very unhappy campers in India in particular, however with India's record of 6 wins,8 losses and 7 draws in the last 2 years I can't imagine why they would want to be ranked #1, heck Australia has a way better record an as a fan I don't believe they are #1 until they get their best team on the ground and win a few series in the SC.

  • chris on January 9, 2016, 10:27 GMT

    i really hope it does swing and the kiwis play great cricket. i really want our guys to be tested in conditions we havent played so well in in the past. i want them to imrove and be a great team in the years to come. the squad is building nicely and some good tough games win or loss will only make them stronger in the future.

  • jared on January 9, 2016, 10:16 GMT

    @ aussiensw, to be honest I didn't even bring it up because I stopped caring a long time ago but after I read drew12 response to it it just bugged me how reluctant some are to admit it was a pivotal part of the game they somehow give more weight to a top order batsmen runs than a lower order batsmen runs but they all count the same the score book and now he's being even more ridiculous than his first comment throwing out a whole heap of what ifs, imagining no balls and all sorts of things, which has got whitepickets involved with his usual click bait style dribble and yourself getting defensive all because I deared to call a spade a spade, by saying a bad decision not definitely but more than likely cost the us the match, is it that insulting to say you got lucky with one rather than winning the old fashioned way. Clearly so.

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