Australia v New Zealand: A humdinger of a battle awaits Trans-Tasman rivals

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It is turning out to be quite the contrast in fortunes compared to last year’s summer, as Australia get ready to welcome their Trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand for a three-match Test series.

Last year at the same time, Australia’s proud home record took a mighty beating with India recording their first-ever Test series win Down Under. The visitors also walked away with the ODI series on the tour while the T20I series ended in a 1-1 draw.

Of course, that was an Australian team still reeling from the seismic aftershocks of the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal with their two best batsmen in Steve Smith and David Warner serving their one-year suspensions.

That picture, however, has changed drastically since the duo’s return earlier this year, with the Australia side starting to resemble again the world-beaters they once were. It has been a fabulous summer of cricket already for the Aussies, who have dispatched subcontinent opposition in the form of Sri Lanka and Pakistan in emphatic style.

Sri Lanka were whitewashed 3-0 in the T20I series, while Pakistan were swept aside 2-0 in the same format. Then came a resounding 2-0 Test series win over Pakistan where their dominance was highlighted by the fact that they lost only a total of 13 wickets over the course of their two innings victories.

Warner and Labuschagne are in marauding form currently.

Warner and Labuschagne are in marauding form currently.

The heartening aspect for head coach Justin Langer was that the crushing wins came despite Smith failing to fire. It was Warner and Marnus Labuschagne who did the bulk of their run scoring, with the latter is now the highest run-getter in the world in the calendar year.

Their pace attack is firing on all cylinders as well with Mitchell Starc finding a new form of consistency to provide an excellent supplement to Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood. It is a team with very few glaring weaknesses at the moment, but their biggest test of the summer will no doubt come from the Blackcaps.

Kane Williamson and his men arrive on Aussie shores fresh from a 1-0 victory over England, victory which extended their impressive record of late at home. That the Kiwis come into the Test series against their neighbours as the higher ranked team is a rare occurrence and they might even consider themselves as favourites given their red-ball form.

They are ranked at No2 compared to Australia’s fifth-place billing and are yet to end up on the losing side of a Test series since March, 2017. Since that 1-0 loss to South Africa, New Zealand have won six of the subsequent seven Test series with only Sri Lanka being able to escape in this impressive run.

In Williamson, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholl and Ross Taylor, the Kiwis have an equally impressive if not better batting unit than the Aussies. Their pace trio of Trent Boult, Neil Wagner and Tim Southee isn’t too shabby either with Lockie Ferguson also lying in wait.

Kiwis are flying high in the Test format.

Kiwis are flying high in the Test format.

Meanwhile, Mitchell Santner is developing into a fine spinning all-rounder while BJ Watling is arguably the best wicketkeeper-batsman currently in the world. In short, New Zealand have all the necessary tools to weather the Australia resurgence and continue their unbeaten streak in the Test format.

What counts against them, though, is their dismal record on Aussie soil with the Kiwis having tasted victory just three times in their 31 previous Tests in the country. As many as 17 of them have ended in defeats with eight of those coming by a margin of an innings or 10 wickets.

Hence, history is most certainly against them on Australian soil but there is no better time than the present to reverse that tide.

What is certain is that the three Tests in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney promise to be an entertaining tussle between bat and ball where the margins between a win and a loss could come down to a single session.

The added incentive of 120 valuable World Test Championship points will only serve to spice up the series between the two rivals.

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