New Zealand v Australia First ODI
Wednesday February 3, 12pm
For the first time since last year’s World Cup Final New Zealand and Australia will clash in the 50-over format with a three match series beginning at Auckland’s Eden Park on Wednesday.
Since they were humbled by Australia in World Cup finale the Kiwis have endured mixed results in ODI cricket, narrowly losing away series’ to England and South Africa before winning five out of the six completed matches at home against Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Their record in New Zealand has been particularly formidable, winning 18 of their past 20 games stretching back over the last 12 months.
However their squad has been hit by injury with Ross Taylor, Tim Southee and Mitchell McClenaghan all ruled out while Tom Latham has been placed on standby for captain Brendon McCullum who is battling a back complaint. If McCullum fails to recover in time for Wednesday’s series opener the hosts will lean heavily on top-order pair Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson who between them have averaged 59.09 in home ODIs this summer.
In the absence of Southee, nippy seamer Matt Henry has really stepped up, taking 15 wickets across six matches against Sri Lanka and Pakistan. However the Kiwis will be hoping for more impact with the ball from all-rounder Mitchell Santner who has taken only three wickets in his last seven matches, whilst conceding runs at an economy rate of 5.90.
Australia come into the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy off a back of a 4-1 series win at home against India. The Australians had five individual century-makers in that series as their batsmen dominated an ineffective Indian attack, scoring at more than a run a ball in all five games.
However one area of concern was their undermanned bowling attack, which without the likes of Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins, conceded scores of 300 plus in all but one game where India still managed 295. The return of Josh Hazlewood, who sat out the majority of the India series, should provide some stability, while uncapped leg-spinner Adam Zampa will be expected to supply some much-needed variety after Nathan Lyon failed to impress in the last two games against the Indians.
One player who did make the most of their opportunities was bustling seamer John Hastings who claimed ten wickets in four matches and will be expected to resume death-bowling duties on the smaller grounds in New Zealand. The world champions will be looking to improve their record in the Shaky Isles where they have lost seven of their past ten ODIs.
Eden Park was the scene of the other World Cup match between these two sides which New Zealand claimed by one wicket in a thrilling encounter. The Black Caps also edged Pakistan in a rain-affected match here on Sunday, however their overall record at the ground is not incredibly strong, having won only four of their last ten ODIs at Eden Park. Martin Guptill has enjoyed plenty of success at the ground in recent times, averaging 76 in his last five innings.
Australia go into the match as favourites with the home side outsiders despite being current holders of the Chappell-Hadlee trophy. While it is tempting to side with the Black Caps the fact they are missing a handful of key players is enough to dissuade me, while I also don’t want to be with an Australian bowling attack that was brutalized by India in home conditions.
I fancy there’s more value to be had in the New Zealand top batsman market. The Kiwis top-order features fearless captain Brendon McCullum and classy heir apparent Kane Williamson, however the most prolific New Zealand batsman in this format has been the less decorated Martin Guptill. Guptill was the top run-scorer in last summer’s World Cup where he top-scored in three out of nine games. The powerful opener has also top-scored in five of his past 11 ODI matches, while at Eden Park he has top-scored three times in 12 games.
Already this year Guptill has been New Zealand’s highest run-scorer in this format, a feat he also achieved in 2015. With Ross Taylor out and a cloud hanging over McCullum I’m willing to back Guptill to prosper against an Australian attack which has struggled to take wickets of late and top-score for the Kiwis once again.