Australia vs New Zealand: Points and pride at stake in the final Test at Sydney

Adithya Sundar 11:41 02/01/2020
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The final Test of  a surprisingly one-sided series will not be called a dead rubber thanks to the context afforded to it by the ICC Test Championship.

Australia sit second in the table and could close the gap on India to 74 points with a win in Sydney. A victory would also ensure a 100 per cent record for Tim Paine’s men this summer.

For New Zealand, a team which was previously unbeaten in the longer format since the start of 2017, the trip across the ocean has been a humbling experience thus far.

They’ve suffered heavy defeats in the first two Tests and need to put a better show at the SCG.

Bowling changes expected in third Test

Injuries to Lockie Ferguson and Trent Boult would mean that the Kiwis will most likely bring in Matt Henry. Off-spinner Will Sommerville could displace the struggling Mitchell Santner who has bowled 69 overs in this series and picked up just one wicket.

The visitors also sweat over the availability of middle-order batsmen Kane Williamson and Henry Nicholls who have been missing from training owing to illness.

Jeet Raval could get a look in if either of those players don’t recover on time.

Wrist spin trial for Australia

26-year-old Mitchell Swepson could be handed a baggy green at Sydney as Australia could play two spinners on a surface that might provide turn during the latter stages of the Test. Considering that Tim Paine’s team will be touring Bangladesh later this year, a dress rehearsal at home with a bowling attack consisting of two spinners may be something Justin Langer will seriously consider.

Steve Smith broke into the top 10 of Australia’s all-time run-makers list at Melbourne and at the SCG, David Warner has the opportunity during the third Test to sneak ahead of Smith. He is now No.12 on the list, 23 runs behind Greg Chappell with 7, 088 runs to his name. If Smith continues to be Neil Wagner’s bunny, the southpaw could not only leapfrog Chappell, but also his team-mate who has scored 7164 Test runs.

Smoke and haze pose a problem

New South Wales has been ravaged by a bushfire crisis in the past couple of months. With a heatwave expected to hit on Saturday, thousands of tourists are expected to be evacuated from the coastal region.

A Big Bash League game in Canberra between Adelaide Strikers and Sydney Thunder was called off last month due to the smoke.

However, Cricket Australia have assured that the safety of the players, match officials and the supporters is paramount and that stringent smoke protocols will be followed.

Doctors will be available to help the umpires make informed decisions on allowing play, in case of  drop in air quality.

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