This series has been a long time coming. Australia and New Zealand started a Chappell-Hadlee contest just days before the world was shut down by the pandemic, the opening game played behind closed doors at the SCG, before New Zealand had to make a hasty journey home with borders shutting.
Matches were then on the schedule in both the 2021 and 2022 seasons only for both to fall by the wayside as international travel, even between two close neighbours, remained problematic due to quarantine requirements. So now, in late 2022 as winter turns to spring in Australia, they will finally face each other again.
It has the makings of an excellent series. New Zealand have named a full-strength side while Australia, with home advantage, have almost everyone available but need to rebound from the shock loss against Zimbabwe in the final match in Townsville.
When the Chappell-Hadlee Series was first added to the international game it had a reasonably frequent space on the calendar - played six times over six years - but since then it has become far more sporadic with four series in 10 years (alongside two one-off games in ODI World Cups) one of which was the aborted 2020 edition.
And it is uncertain when it will be played again after this series. Under the 2023-27 Future Tours Progamme, the two teams are not scheduled to face each other in bilateral ODIs. It seems a massive shame that the neighbours can't find a week in the calendar more often.
On the field over the next few days, the major storyline for Australia will be the form of captain Aaron Finch. It feels his ODI cricket is reaching a vital juncture and a lean week in Cairns will increase the questions ahead of next year's World Cup. For New Zealand, they will be looking to build on the series victory in the West Indies which continued strong ODI form: they have lost just one of their 12 Super League matches but haven't won an ODI in Australia since 2009.
(last five matches, most recent first)
Australia LWWWL New Zealand WWLWW
In the spotlight
It's hard to look beyond the Australia captain. Aaron Finch made 21 runs in three innings against Zimbabwe to continue a tough year in ODIs. A strong return in Cairns will quieten the topic, but New Zealand's pace attack will provide a tough examination. Finch's record against New Zealand is also his worst in the format with an average of 17.20 from 10 ten matches, although he did make 60 at the SCG back in 2020.
Finn Allen has made a very promising start to his ODI career, reaching at least 25 in five of his seven innings and making two half-centuries, including a match-winning 96 on a tricky surface against West Indies in Barbados. That innings, which came off 117 balls, was the surest sign yet that Allen is much more than the top-order dasher that has been seen in T20. However, he certainly has the game to quickly take attacks apart and it will be fascinating to see him against Australia's strong line-up.
The main decision for Australia would appear to be whether to retain the same XI from the last two games in Townsville or replace Ashton Agar with a pace-bowling allrounder option in Sean Abbott. Marnus Labuschagne and Josh Inglis are also part of the squad.
Australia (probable) 1 Aaron Finch (capt), 2 David Warner, 3 Steven Smith, 4 Alex Carey (wk), 5 Marcus Stoinis, 6 Cameron Green, 7 Glenn Maxwell, 8 Ashton Agar/Sean Abbott, 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Adam Zampa, 11 Josh Hazlewood
For New Zealand it could be a call whether there is room for either Michael Bracewell as another spin-bowling allrounder or Glenn Phillips as a batter in the middle order. A fit-again Matt Henry will push for inclusion in the pace attack.
New Zealand (probable) 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Finn Allen, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Devon Conway, 5 Daryl Mitchell, 6 Tom Latham (wk), 7 Jimmy Neesham, 8 Mitchell Santner, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Lockie Ferguson, 11 Trent Boult
Pitch and conditions
As in Townsville, it is again a little bit of the unknown given the lack of international cricket at the venue. The day-night element will remove the impact of the early-morning starts in the Zimbabwe series, instead it might be whether conditions change under lights. After some recent rain, the forecast is warm and sunny, but the pitch has been under cover a bit which could mean some early life with Finch expecting a challenge against the new ball.
"They are a world-class side…they are a fantastic unit and have been for a long time to be one of the benchmarks in all three formats. The fact they are world No. 1 in the ODI cricket is testament to that." Aaron Finch on New Zealand
"We know how strong this Australian side is, the quality they have throughout, so for us it's a great opportunity to play against one of the best teams in the world and for us to execute the things that are important to us so looking forward to the challenge." More mutal respect, this time from Kane Williamson