There is always plenty of spice when the trans-Tasman rivalry is resumed, especially as it has been such a rare occurrence in international cricket of late. Strangely, the two teams have not met in a bi-lateral ODI series since 2010. The respective boards have decided that the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy will be up for grabs to give extra incentive, if any were really needed, to the players.
Both teams have enjoyed dream runs of late. New Zealand came into the tournament off the back of strong showings against Sri Lanka and Pakistan and have since recorded comfortable wins over Sri Lanka, Scotland and, last time out, a thorough demolition of England. Since then, they have enjoyed a week off but will need to be back to full intensity in front of what is a sell-out crowd of 40,000 in Auckland.
Australia have been equally dominant in recent times. A thrashing of England followed on from a comprehensive tri-series victory in the lead-up to this tournament. Like their opponents, they have been left twiddling their thumbs over the past few days after their last game was washed out against Bangladesh.
Strengths and weaknesses:
As is always likely when two sides with such outstanding recent records do battle, weaknesses are a little thin on the ground. Australia will fancy, and have pretty much said as much, that if they can get Brendon McCullum out early then the New Zealand middle-order could be vulnerable, despite the fact it contains players of the class of Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor.
New Zealand, meanwhile, will target Australia in a similar way. They will look to remove the dangerous opening pair of David Warner and Aaron Finch cheaply and get the out-of-form Shane Watson and the returning Michael Clarke to the crease against the new ball. A further possible weakness for Australia is the lack of a specialist spinner. The Black Caps may look to target Glenn Maxwell on the ridiculously short boundaries on offer at Eden Park.
The overwhelming strength for both sides is the pace attack. Tim Southee and Trent Boult have proved world beaters for New Zealand in recent times, while Mitchell Johnson will spearhead an equally potent Australian attack. The fielding is also likely to be of a supremely high standard. McCullum called New Zealand’s display during the match against England “the best I’ve seen from a New Zealand team.”
As mentioned, the boundaries at Eden Park are so short that if it were to be a new ground applying to host international cricket it would fail to meet the minimum requirement as specified by the ICC. The shortest, behind the batsman, is around 45 metres. Overhead, the conditions are likely to be equally unforgiving for the bowlers. A sunny, almost cloudless, day is forecast, with temperatures peaking at around 26 degrees Celsius. All of which means high scores are extremely likely. The team batting first will have to target 300 as a minimum.
As is fitting for two winnings sides, both have confirmed their elevens ahead of the match. New Zealand will be unchanged for the fourth time in a row in the tournament.
Confirmed XI: Martin Guptill, Brendon McCullum (captain), Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Grant Elliott, Corey Anderson, Luke Ronchi (wicket-keeper), Daniel Vettori, Adam Milne, Tim Southee, Trent Boult.
Australia have made a couple of changes from the match against England. Michael Clarke returns from injury to lead the side and displaces his stand-in George Bailey from the eleven. Pat Cummins is preferred to Josh Hazlewood to complete the pace attack.
Confirmed XI: David Warner, Aaron Finch, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke (captain), Steven Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Marsh, Brad Haddin (wicket-keeper), Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins.
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