Australia in New Zealand 2015-16 February 10, 2016

Raw Australia face another swing test


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Don't want Trent Bridge memories back - Warner

Sixty all out. If Australia forgot about that depressing figure during their home summer, they should dredge the memory back up. Denial is rarely a successful coping strategy; it is best to own up to your problems and learn from them. It would be easy to pretend everything was fine after first-innings totals of 4 for 556, 9 for 559, 4 for 583, and 3 for 551 during their home Tests in November and December. On flat pitches against straight balls, Australia's batsmen looked invincible.

But for peaks to exist there must also be troughs. In Nottingham last August, Stuart Broad moved the ball around just enough to destroy Australia and secure England the Ashes. In the previous Test at Edgbaston they had been rolled for 136. At Lord's two years earlier it was 128. Go back a few years earlier and you have all-out 47 in Cape Town, all-out 88 against Pakistan in Leeds, albeit with different personnel. For swing and seam bowlers against Australia, it's a move-a-ball feast.

So, what will Australia's batsmen face over the next fortnight in New Zealand? It is worth noting that none of their squad members have played a Test there, and perhaps the only thing greener in New Zealand conditions is the pitch at the Basin Reserve. Two days out from the Test, it was hard to distinguish which one from the wicket square was to be used, such was the consistent grass cover. But the Basin pitch traditionally flattens out and becomes better for batting.

Last summer, New Zealand were knocked over by Sri Lanka for 221 in the first innings, but in the second they piled on 524 for 5, thanks to a world-record sixth-wicket stand from Kane Williamson and BJ Watling. The previous year, India rolled New Zealand for 192 on the first day but another mammoth second-innings stand, this time from Watling and Brendon McCullum, and they racked up 680 for 8.

"The ball will swing for a lot longer than what it does in Australia," Australia's vice-captain David Warner said on Wednesday. "The wickets were pretty flat, I'd have to say, in Australia. Looking at the wicket here it looks nice and green, but that's irrelevant. I don't think the ball will do much off the wicket. It will swing around a lot, and obviously with two world-class swing bowlers in the attack it's going to be a challenge for us guys at the top of the order."

It will be especially fascinating if Australia bat first and find themselves facing up to hooping deliveries from Tim Southee and Trent Boult. Without a red-ball warm-up match they have had no chance to get used to the New Zealand conditions other than in one-day internationals, where they have naturally looked to score quickly. Patience will be key early but at least they will face the familiar Kookaburra and not the Dukes of England, which generally swings for longer.

"It's like when we go to England, you have to adapt very fast, you don't want to get too far ahead of yourselves," Warner said. "Look at Trent Bridge, it was swinging around, you don't want those memories back again. We just have to adapt to whatever we face on game day."

Remarkably, given Australia's loss of the Ashes last year and the struggles they have had away from home in recent years, Steven Smith's side will jump to No.1 in the Test rankings if they win the series in New Zealand. Smith is the only member of the squad who was also on the previous tour in 2010 but he was on work experience back then, and did not win his baggy green until later that year. It means a significant advantage for New Zealand in terms of knowing the conditions.

"It's probably been a while since a side's come to New Zealand without having any experience of playing Test cricket here," Southee said. "It's something foreign for them and I guess there is a slight edge there for us if we can make the most of it. But they're a quality side and they've got quality players and they've got a big series on the line, if they win this they can go to No.1 in the world."

Of course, Australia are not the only team that has had trouble winning away from home. In recent years South Africa have been the only side that has been able to do so consistently, and New Zealand themselves failed to adapt quickly enough to the Australian conditions when they visited earlier in the summer. It was not until the day-night Test in Adelaide at the end of the tour that their bowlers looked close to their best.

"We didn't start too well in Australia but the second half of the series we bowled a lot better," Southee said. "It showed in the back end of that series, we didn't ask some questions [earlier] and when we get it right we can be dangerous in any conditions. It just shows if you're a little bit off, sides can capitalise on that. Coming back to conditions that we are familiar with and we've had a lot of success it is a nice feeling."

Southee himself enters this Test under an injury cloud, having suffered a foot injury during an ODI against Sri Lanka on December 31. However, he returned in the Plunket Shield for Northern Districts last week and is confident he will be fit for the Test. "I'm pretty good, I got through that four-day game unscathed," Southee said, "so hopefully I get through today and scrub up all right tomorrow."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • suabhdeep on February 11, 2016, 18:00 GMT

    Fast, bouncy and green top pitches will not bother Australia. Adelaide had been pretty lively wicket . Yet Australia won. People would shout about Leon's DRS but fact is NZ could not bowl the tail-enders out. And their biggest bet both Williamson and Taylor failed against Hazlewood. Kiwis have to play their skin out to win. These are not worthless subcontinental flat pitch bullies -- Aussies are till the pinnacle of cricket achievement to beat, on fast seaming conditions.

  • Jose on February 11, 2016, 15:23 GMT

    Australia's fate heavily depends on how these three batsmen in their lineup ADAPT to the seaming and swinging conditions: Warner, Khawaja, & Smith.

    I am expecting a low scoring match. I also expect Williamson doing a great job for NZ.

    For Oz, if two of the three mentioned earlier score heavily, they can win this one, the next, and also reach the top on the test totem pole.

  • Peter on February 11, 2016, 13:55 GMT

    A 2-test series should not be permitted. It has to be 3 or 5. Get rid of the T-slog and meaningless ODI series so we can get some real cricket played and decide who are the best at playing real cricket.

    Having said that, very interested to see how Burns and the Marsh boys go with their batting - big test for them - if they come through here the inevitable rise to the top of the real cricket ladder will be sooner rather than later for the mighty Aussies

  • John on February 11, 2016, 11:57 GMT

    When playing on anything but the manufactured bat first roads of Australia, the Aussies have clearly been the inferior team away from home against decent sides. This has been the case for a while, putting a hollow win over a very weak WI aside, so for Australia to have the chance to be number 1 in tests makes a mockery of test cricket and is an affront to all real cricket fans. Let's hope the cricketing Gods see fit to end this debacle and deliver a resounding win for NZ. Kiwis - restore our faith and go smash them!!

  • BIKIRAN on February 11, 2016, 9:41 GMT

    @JOHNTHEKIWI, The point I'm trying to make is in order to dismiss any opposition line-up you would always like to employ an element that is most unfamiliar to that side.Now, in Australia a)the ball does: bounce and seam & b) the ball does not :swing, turn(don't worry about people like Warne or Murli,they turn it anywhere), keep low, stop after pitching.Now, in NZ, conditions favor swing therefore it's the easiest element to use.And off course an outswinger at 140kph is better than an outswinger at 130kph but the critical element is still the swing.Alan Donald, an express fast bowler in his time averages more than Dale Steyn and Wasim Akram against Australia.Now, both Steyn and Wasim used swing as the chief element to dismiss batsman.I sincerely believe NZ should focus on achieving swing while maintaining decent pace( 130 odd) & line and length.A quick straight ball will only be a quick straight ball.Short stuff, even if its quick, is a familiar event for batsmen grown up in Australia.

  • john on February 11, 2016, 9:11 GMT

    A close series none the less. Nz should make history. Loss of start is a big factor. The fact is that memories do become selective as new Zealand and sa have both squared the series in the emirates while a 56 ball century was being created against the so called best in the world.

  • James on February 11, 2016, 8:03 GMT

    If it swings a fair bit then good night Aussies. I am going for 1-1, Oz to come away with a close win here but Kiwis to come back to win the second.

  • Bill on February 11, 2016, 4:03 GMT

    Nz slow starters in test series. Bowling first probably best chance on day one.

  • Craig on February 11, 2016, 2:12 GMT

    Agree Ross Taylor is a huge loss. Someone will have to stand up to help Williamson. So The Basin is a minefield early on. So the toss is vital. As an Aussie I want Smith to call correctly them insert the Kiwis.

  • Bill on February 11, 2016, 1:13 GMT

    Nathan Lyon will be one to watch.

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