December 9, 2016
Start time 1420 local (0320 GMT)
Little more than 18 months after Australia belted New Zealand in the World Cup final at a heaving MCG, the two sides return to the scene of that decider with much less on the line. Strong Australian victories in Sydney and Canberra have sealed the Chappell-Hadlee series and also given the hosts a spring in their step after the humiliation of a Test series loss to South Africa. Where more than 90,000 people turned up to the aforementioned final, the expected crowd for Friday is closer to 25,000. For players on both sides, and the administrators who run their respective cricket boards, this will be a stark reminder of how much difference context can make to what is ostensibly the same match: same teams, same venue, similar time of year.
Having started the series with the sideshow of Glenn Maxwell's punishment for speaking out of turn, Steven Smith's Australians have produced a pair of well-rounded displays. In addition to hundreds by the team's leaders Smith and David Warner, the likes of Travis Head, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Marsh and Pat Cummins have all contributed neatly. Such a broad spread of fruitful performances is the sort of thing Kane Williamson was hoping for when his side crossed the Tasman, but they arrive in Melbourne without having yet done so. In particular the New Zealand bowlers have failed to make a sustained impression, something they will undoubtedly be eager to address in Melbourne.
Australia: WWLLL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
New Zealand: LLLWL
In the spotlight
Having showcased his outlandish batting stance at the SCG, George Bailey was shuffled down the batting order in Canberra and unable to make an impact on the match. He was absent, too, from the back end of Australia's World Cup campaign due to the return of Michael Clarke, and will be eager to make his presence felt this time around. The method he has adopted at the batting crease is bound to cause consternation for being so unorthodox, and the only way to silence the doubters will be to make runs on a big stage while utilising it. At the same time Bailey can shore up his place with numerous other hungry performers - not least Glenn Maxwell and Usman Khawaja - currently missing out on a spot.
While his pace has been up from last summer, Trent Boult has again been unable to dictate the course of an encounter between Australia and New Zealand in the way he so memorably did during their World Cup group match at Eden Park in 2015. To some degree this has been because the hosts have played him well, but there has also been an issue of the ball swinging only fleetingly for one of the game's most gifted exponents of conventional swerve. Had the edge he procured from David Warner's bat in Canberra gone his way, things may have been different, but for now Boult will hope to atone with wickets and influence in Melbourne.
Mitchell Starc may be given a rest ahead of the Test series against Pakistan, while Glenn Maxwell will also be eager for an opportunity to play in front of his home crowd.
Australia (possible) 1 David Warner, 2 Aaron Finch, 3, Steven Smith (capt), 4 George Bailey, 5 Travis Head, 6 Mitchell Marsh, 7 Matthew Wade (wk), 8 James Faulkner, 9 Adam Zampa, 10 Pat Cummins, 11 Josh Hazlewood
Lockie Ferguson is a decent chance to return for his second game, possibly at the expense of Matt Henry. James Neesham is still icing the arm struck by Starc in Canberra and should he pull up sore Henry Nicholls would get a call-up.
New Zealand (possible) 1 Tom Latham, 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Jimmy Neesham, 5 Colin Munro, 6 BJ Watling (wk), 7 Mitchell Santner, 8 Colin de Grandhomme, 9 Lockie Ferguson, 10 Tim Southee, 11 Trent Boult.
Pitch and conditions
Melbourne's weather is typically changeable this week, but the MCG pitch looks brimful of runs ahead of its first international of the summer.
Stats and trivia
Aaron Finch averages 51.50 at the MCG, where he has scored 412 runs in eight innings. Warner averages only 21.75 here, with 174 runs in eight innings.
Mitchell Starc has 14 wickets in six ODIs at the MCG, at 14.85 apiece.
"I think they've got world-class players, when you get 370 it's always going to be hard to chase down, we batted really well and they probably didn't bowl as well as they'd like, which was the same for us two weeks ago when we didn't bowl or bat as well as we'd have liked."
Australia's coach Darren Lehmann reflects on how much has changed in a week
"We just want to get better. We want to improve from those last two performances. We weren't at our best and if we can do a few things better and put them under some pressure we'll be better off for it."
BJ Watling, the New Zealand wicketkeeper