WELLINGTON: As all the talk surrounds Australia’s high-octane duo David Warner and Shaun Tait, New Zealand’s experienced cricket lineup just hope they’re up to speed against the confident tourists in here on Friday (today).
The five-week tour opens with the first Twenty20 international under the Westpac Stadium lights, with the Australians promising plenty of fireworks, fresh from their first unbeaten summer at home since 2000-01.
While Australia dispatched Pakistan and West Indies, the New Zealand players had an international hiatus over Christmas-New Year then completed the expected sweep of Bangladesh in a series which hardly captured the imagination.
So a guarded New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori was doing his best to temper expectations, while admitting the coming series held huge importance for his side’s credibility. “Australia are playing exceptional cricket so it’s a big ask for us to try to compete and beat them,” he said. “This is the series everyone has been talking about for a long time, not only us but public and media. We know our summer will be judged on how we perform in this series. We’ve got to lift our game dramatically from where we were previously in the summer.”
Australia breezed into town on Thursday talking up their big-hitting opener Warner and speedster Tait who took two wickets with his first four balls against New Zealand in a Perth Twenty20 match two seasons ago. Warner slammed the second-fastest Twenty20 half-century, off 18 balls, against the West Indies in Sydney on Tuesday night, including a switch hit which England’s Kevin Pietersen used to terrorise New Zealand’s bowlers in Durham in 2008. Tait, meanwhile, was charging in, threatening the magical 160kmh barrier and with fellow quick Dirk Nannes will be zeroing in on the New Zealand top order. Vettori said Tait’s success had been against batsmen who’d tried to attack him, so orthodox shots would be on the menu, while they hoped to apply early pressure to Warner who was dropped during last year’s Chappell-Hadlee series.
“He’s in a lot better form than when we came across him last time. He’s a confidence player, I played with him at Delhi. Once he gets on a roll he’s incredibly hard to stop. The first six balls to him might dictate the rest of the two games.” Both Vettori and his counterpart Michael Clarke were hoping for clarification from Friday nights umpires on the rules around switch hitting. Vettori felt it was great for the game, but he hoped bowlers would get some latitude with wides on either side if a batsman suddenly changed stance. New Zealand were rated $2.75 outsiders to Australia’s $1.40 on Thursday, but take a settled lineup into the two Twenty20 matches, with Shane Bond’s return from an abdominal tear the obvious highlight.
He will lead a pace attack containing Tim Southee and Daryl Tuffey, while spinner Nathan McCullum will support Vettori and the batting lineup has enough strikepower via Ross Taylor, Brendon McCullum, Martin Guptill and Jacob Oram. Vettori said Bond was pumped up to face Australia, against whom he’s taken 35 one-day international wickets at 14.45. Australia noted Bond’s comments about them having “a relatively easy run” this summer, but clearly saw him as the danger man. “He’s got a lot of class and no doubt he’ll be keen to continue his form against Australia. He’s been very successful and hopefully we can stop that tomorrow night,” Clarke said. Australia have won all three Twenty20 matches between the sides, the latest by one run in Sydney a year ago. They are without regular skipper Ricky Ponting, retired from Twenty20 cricket, but have a solid core of Clarke, Shane Watson, Brad Haddin, the Hussey brothers, Mitchell Johnson and big-hitting young batsman/legspinner Steve Smith. In Twenty20 internationals, New Zealand have won just 13 from 31 while Australia have won 14 of 27.
New Zealand: Brendon McCullum (wk), Peter Ingram, Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor, Jacob Oram, Gareth Hopkins, James Franklin, Daniel Vettori (capt), Nathan McCullum, Shane Bond, Daryl Tuffey.
Australia: Shane Watson, David Warner, Michael Clarke (capt), David Hussey, Cameron White, Brad Haddin (wk), Daniel Christian, Steven Smith, Mitchell Johnson, Dirk Nannes, Shaun Tait. agencies