Australia set to kick off New Zealand tour
Friday, February 26, Wellington
Start time 1900 (0600 GMT)
The Big Picture
Australia often play international matches three days apart but rarely in two different countries. The last Twenty20 against West Indies in Sydney was followed by a quick flight across the ditch to Wellington for the first match on a month-long tour of New Zealand. They are coming off a home summer in which they did not lose a match in any format but New Zealand in their own conditions could be a tougher challenge. It is also Michael Clarke's first tour officially in charge of Australia's Twenty20 team - he captained them in England last year but only because Ricky Ponting was being rested.
New Zealand have had a successful home summer as well, losing only one match so far, the second Test against Pakistan. They have played more Twenty20 internationals - 31 - than any other country but have not quite mastered the format, with 13 victories. These games are the last chance for both sides to prepare and ascertain their best line-ups before the ICC World Twenty20, which starts in the Caribbean in late April.
Form guide (most recent first)New Zealand WLLWW
Watch out for...
Brendon McCullum can be hit-and-miss but he found some form during the Bangladesh series and 56 off 27 balls in the Twenty20 was quite a performance. That was followed by 185 in the only Test and McCullum will be keen to continue that sort of touch against the Australians. His power at the top of the order will need to be a key part of New Zealand's fight against Australia's on-song attack.
Shaun Tait's return to international cricket, albeit only at Twenty20 level, was one of the individual success stories of Australia's summer. He does not play first-class cricket anymore and prefers short, sharp spells to help him reach his best speeds, which peaked at 160.7kph against Pakistan in the Twenty20 in Melbourne. Most importantly, he has taken wickets and leaked few runs as his searing, swinging yorkers and shorter deliveries have proved hard to handle.
New Zealand have named a 12-man squad, which makes their selections relatively easy. Shane Bond is back in the group having missed the Bangladesh series and Tim Southee is the most likely to make way for Bond. The opener Peter Ingram made a promising start to his international career against Bangladesh but will face a tougher challenge against a fiercely quick Australian new-ball attack.
New Zealand (possible) 1 Brendon McCullum (wk), 2 Peter Ingram, 3 Martin Guptill, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Jacob Oram, 6 Gareth Hopkins, 7 James Franklin, 8 Daniel Vettori (capt), 9 Nathan McCullum, 10 Shane Bond, 11 Daryl Tuffey.
Dirk Nannes was rested from the final Twenty20 against West Indies but expect him to return to form a very fast opening combination with Shaun Tait. Ryan Harris could be squeezed out despite making a good debut on Tuesday, or the selectors might decide to give Mitchell Johnson a rest. Daniel Christian also picked up two wickets on debut and although both were caught in the deep, he may hold on to his spot at No. 7. Michael Hussey replace Shaun Marsh in the squad but is unlikely to be in Australia's strongest XI, given that he was overlooked for the three Twenty20s at home.
Australia (possible) 1 Shane Watson, 2 David Warner, 3 Michael Clarke (capt), 4 David Hussey, 5 Cameron White, 6 Brad Haddin (wk), 7 Daniel Christian, 8 Steven Smith, 9 Mitchell Johnson, 10 Dirk Nannes, 11 Shaun Tait.
Pitch and conditionsTwenty20 internationals at Westpac Stadium have tended to produce scores around 150-160. The forecast for Friday in Wellington is fine with a top temperature of 19C.
Stats and trivia
- New Zealand and Australia have played three Twenty20 internationals against each other - Australia have won them all
- It is five years since these same teams played the first ever Twenty20 international - of the 22 players involved in that match only Brendon McCullum, Daryl Tuffey, Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey are in the mix to play this game
- Brendon McCullum has played more Twenty20 internationals than any other player in the world and has also scored the most runs
Quotes"They've played bloody well, they've had a relatively easy run I suppose, in terms of the pressure they've been put under so hopefully we can put them under some huge pressure."
Shane Bond is keen to test Australia more than Pakistan and West Indies did
"We've had a pretty good run and I'm not sure who they have been playing lately but they'd want to front up pretty well then, wouldn't they."
Australia's coach Tim Nielsen isn't convinced that New Zealand have had it any harder, facing Bangladesh
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.