Khawaja out to correct modest ODI record
Usman Khawaja has never batted better than he has this summer. Australia have seldom played worse than they did at Eden Park on Wednesday. Whether these two trend lines will cancel each other out at Westpac Stadium on Saturday remains to be seen, but Khawaja at least is not entering the Chappell-Hadlee bout with any sense of superiority.
Partly, this is because Khawaja has not played an ODI for three years, a match so long ago that at the time Mickey Arthur was still Australia's coach, Michael Clarke the captain and Julia Gillard the Prime Minister. His record in three 50-over appearances for the national team is decidedly modest - 14 runs in three innings and precisely one boundary.
All good reasons, then, for Khawaja not to get too far ahead of himself. When added to the fact that the team he is entering chalked up their fifth consecutive loss across two formats earlier this week, Khawaja has plenty of reasons to walk to the middle in Wellington with a clear sense of aspiration.
"Different conditions, different team," Khawaja said of whether his strong run-making of late would have any bearing on things. "I'm not a big believer in form to be honest so I just got to go out and keep doing the same things - watching the ball, keeping it simple.
"It's a new challenge out there so nothing I did previously has any effect on what I hopefully do tomorrow. The past is done. I'm feeling really good right now and but that doesn't always mean I'm going to score runs. I'm just going to try and contribute to the team to hopefully get us a win in this second game."
A win over New Zealand at the "Cake Tin" is easier said than done. They have lost only twice in 14 matches at the ground since Australia's most recent win there as far back as 2005. Khawaja noted the momentum Brendon McCullum's team have built up at home over recent years, but also that he could not see Australia playing as poorly as Eden Park.
"They're a very good one-day team as we saw them making the World Cup Final, and they're very good at home as we are as well," Khawaja said. "They're going to come hard again … if they win this one they win the series, but we can't concentrate too much other than what we've been doing. We had an off day the other day - no matter who you are, that happens.
"We don't have to worry about that too much, we just have to keep doing the basics right and we're a good enough team to do the basics right. If everyone plays and everyone does what they're supposed to we're pretty confident we can come away with a win. But then again if they do the same thing it will be pretty tough too."
As for his own approach, Khawaja said he would be trying to assess conditions quickly in a city where he last played as part of a schoolboys team when he was 12 years old. "It's not like going from Australia to India, the ball moved around a bit at times but it didn't look like it moved around a whole lot at Eden Park," he said. "The wicket there looked a bit two-paced, but I've played enough cricket around the world now to hopefully convert those runs here.
"It just depends on the conditions. I like to go out and be pretty aggressive but if the wicket is not conducive to aggressiveness then sometimes you have to bring it back a bit. But you have to be adaptable to the conditions. Hopefully I can suss it out early.
"There's a whole lot of factors that go into playing the game - conditions, the wicket, weather, the ball, how it's deteriorating. There's so many things that can change. You've just got to fly by the seat of your pants sometimes and just suss out the conditions, not go in with too many preconceived notions so hopefully I'll be doing that tomorrow."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig