It is now less than a month until the World Cup starts and with the IPL nearing a conclusion thoughts are turning seriously to the tournament. A full-strength Australia squad have gone into camp in Brisbane to begin their run-in and they will face a shadow New Zealand team, with a number of key players still at the IPL, in three one-day games. Here are a few things to keep an eye on.
Australia's top three
Among the things that came together for Australia's one-day side against India and Pakistan was the opening combination of Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja. David Warner's return means there is now another world-class opener available so that partnership looks set to be split - it is surely a no-brainer that Warner opens. All the indications are that it will be Finch alongside him - the pairing that took Australia to the 2015 World Cup - with Khawaja either moving to No. 3 or, potentially, out of the side altogether, which would be harsh given his recent form.
While Warner looks primed for his international return, Steven Smith has faced a trickier path due to his elbow injury being the more serious. He found some form with the bat in the latter part of the IPL after being named Rajasthan Royals' captain, but remained restricted in the field. He said he is another couple of weeks away from full fitness - concern that a diving catch to remove Warner last week damaged the troublesome elbow were downplayed - so it will be interesting to see how much he pushes himself in the field in Brisbane.
Fitness of Australia's quicks
There were a couple of asterisks in Australia's World Cup squad with Mitchell Starc and Jhye Richardson named subject to fitness. Starc hasn't played since the Sri Lanka Test series due to a pectoral injury but has returned to full training and Richardson dislocated his shoulder in the UAE although he avoided needing surgery that would have ended his World Cup hopes. The pair will be put through their paces over the next week - but how much Richardson takes part remains to be seen. Kane Richardson and Josh Hazlewood (the latter ruled out of the World Cup with his back injury) are the stand-by bowlers if needed.
During the matches in India and the UAE, conditions meant Australia fielded both Adam Zampa and Nathan Lyon in eight of the ten matches. Earlier this week Aaron Finch said he expected spin to play a big role in the World Cup, but it could be difficult to find room for both frontliners in the attack, especially with Glenn Maxwell able to provide a more-than-useful option, so there will be a decision to make for the selectors. Sides are very keen to have a legspinner in one-day cricket to try and strike in the middle overs, but Lyon would be a steady presence. It will also be worth seeing whether Finch takes the opportunity in practice matches to use them in different situations of an innings.
Nicholls' new role
Given the weakened nature of New Zealand's squad there is less at stake, but that does not mean there is no significance. During the home season Henry Nicholls usurped Colin Munro at the top of the order and is now the preferred man alongside Martin Guptill. He has only done it on four occasions to date so, against a strong Australia team, the three matches are a good chance for him to further bed into his new position.
New Zealand's depth
By nature of this being a second-string side, the week in Brisbane is an opportunity to assess the bench strength of New Zealand. The non-World Cup players are now those in line for a call-up should injury strike. Doug Bracewell would likely lead the way if another allrounder was needed, while Todd Astle narrowly missed out on the World Cup squad. For Will Young it is a chance to cement his position as the next batsman in line and for George Worker a chance to make a point to the selectors having lost his central contract.