Australia's preparations 'adequate' - Smith
Australia's captain Steven Smith believes his men will have adequate preparation for their Trans-Tasman Trophy defence in New Zealand despite there being no warm-up match ahead of the first Test. The two Tests in Wellington and Christchurch are preceded by three ODIs, which will be the only local match preparation for several Test squad members including Smith, David Warner, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Marsh and Shaun Marsh.
Three other Test players - Adam Voges, Nathan Lyon and Peter Nevill - will play in a Sheffield Shield match between New South Wales and Western Australia in Lincoln, New Zealand, which was scheduled to help local preparation in lieu of a tour game. Others such as Usman Khawaja, Joe Burns, James Pattinson, Chadd Sayers, Jackson Bird and Peter Siddle (fitness permitting) have a Sheffield Shield game in Australia before flying to New Zealand.
It is hardly an ideal situation given that the conditions in New Zealand are likely to offer more swing and seam than was seen during the Test series between the two sides in Australia at the start of the summer. And with only two Tests, there is no room for a slow start as the Australians adjust; New Zealand are proven performers at home, and have not lost a Test in New Zealand since early 2012, before Brendon McCullum and Mike Hesson came together as captain and coach.
"It is what it is. We've played a lot of cricket this summer," Smith said in Melbourne on Friday ahead of his departure early on Saturday morning. "Everyone will be playing some form of cricket, whether it's one-day cricket or the Shield match. I think it's adequate preparation and we'll be ready to go for that series."
None of Australia's squad has played a Test in New Zealand, the last tour there having been nearly six years ago when a 20-year-old Smith was part of the squad but had to wait until later in the year to win his first baggy green. However, Smith thinks he knows the kind of pitches the Australians will face in New Zealand and he knows that the challenge of facing the moving ball will again be significant, as it was during last year's Ashes tour.
"It's going to be a little bit different," Smith said. "They're going to prepare wickets that are going to do a little bit. We've got some bowlers there to hopefully get a bit out of that and the batters are going to have to adapt a little bit better than we have previously on wickets that have done stuff. Guys are working hard and we know what to expect.
"It's very difficult to do. When you grow up in Australia you can play out in front a little bit more, and in those conditions you've got to play under your eyes so your nicks don't carry and you're not getting out in front. It's hard to train, you sort of have to get away from everything that you learn growing up and try and for a new technique, in a way. Hopefully the guys can do that and adapt, to all the conditions around the world."
Key to New Zealand's hopes will be their pace attack led by Trent Boult, who struggled early on in the Tests in Australia but by the third Test in Adelaide with the pink ball was proving a handful for Australia's batsmen. Boult has described the upcoming tour as the "pinnacle of the season" for New Zealand; Australia remember all too well the way he destroyed them in Auckland during last year's World Cup, albeit swinging a white ball rather than a red one.
"He looked like he was back to his best in the last couple of Tests here," Smith said. "He got a bit more work into his body and he was ready to go. He's done very well for New Zealand recently, he bowls extremely well in New Zealand, so he's going to be a tough one for us. But guys know what to expect. Hopefully the batters can combat whatever he brings at us."
During that memorable World Cup game in Auckland, Mitchell Starc was just as deadly with the moving ball as Boult, and Australia will sorely miss the injured Starc in New Zealand conditions for this Test series. Hazlewood will lead the attack and two of Pattinson, Siddle, Sayers and Bird will round out the pace attack; choosing who makes the cut in Wellington could be difficult given the lack of a tour game.
"We're going to have a few net sessions before we start," Smith said. "We'll have a look and see how they're going, see how their bodies are and see who's going to be best for the conditions that we're faced with. It's going to be a tough call on whomever misses out but we're confident that these guys are going to do a job for us in New Zealand."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale