Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Shades of 2015 as Australia, New Zealand rekindle rivalry in whites

Nathan Lyon roars an appeal AFP

Big Picture

Expectations were high for New Zealand this time four years ago. Led by Brendon McCullum and boasting an impressive recent record, they arrived in Australia hopeful of a first Test series win across the Tasman since 1985, against a home team starting out in the wake of a raft of retirements at the end of an unsuccessful 2015 Ashes tour.

Save for a high scoring draw at the WACA Ground, the visitors were to head home defeated and disappointed, unable to get the wickets they needed on docile surfaces and winkled out one by one by Australia's taller, faster bowling attack with help from Nathan Lyon. A similar tale was to be told in New Zealand early the following year.

In 2019, New Zealand's leadership has been passed on to Kane Williamson, and if anything the record they bring to Australia this time around is still more compelling, ranked No. 2 to India in Tests and World Cup finalists for the second consecutive 50-over tournament in England this year.

ALSO READ: New Zealand brace for 'most extreme' Test in Perth

Yet the same questions asked of New Zealand in 2015 remain to be asked by many of the same performers. David Warner, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon are all arguably better cricketers now than they were then, bolstered by the subsequent inclusion and exploits of Pat Cummins. Equally the supporting cast looks to be a strong one, whether Marnus Labuschagne at No. 3, the captain Tim Paine behind the stumps, or a mature Matthew Wade marshalling the middle order.

One of the significant factors that held New Zealand back in 2015 was that Trent Boult was not at his best following injury, and he finds himself in similar territory this time around. One potential difference is the pace and aggression of Lockie Ferguson, who might be capable of adding the spice that appeared missing four years ago. Either way, New Zealand will have fresh memories of 2015 as they contemplate Perth Stadium, and the story of this series will most likely be told in how much better they are at dealing with familiar challenges.

Form guide

Australia WWLWL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
New Zealand DWWLW

In the spotlight

Unstoppable, that's what David Warner is. In laying waste to Pakistan, and setting a new record for Australia's highest score against a consistently active Test nation, he has banished many of the doubts lingering in his own mind after a horrific Ashes tour. New Zealand will present a different and likely more strident challenge, able to use more rigorous lines, lengths and fields in an attempt to corral Warner and stop him from using a vast array of shots and seemingly inexhaustible fitness level to dishearten bowlers and give Australia a head start to the innings. After all the many other partners tried for him over the past three years, Warner is back with the opener with whom he successfully confronted New Zealand in 2015-16, Joe Burns.

It seems a cruel joke of fate that Trent Boult would find himself fighting to recover from injury in time for a Test series in Australia, having gone through a not dissimilar battle in 2015 and then struggled to produce his best at a time of most need as a result. At his sharpest, swiftest and swingingest, Boult is capable of creating the kinds of angles and problems to confound the very very best batsmen, which is more or less exactly who he will be confronting in Warner and Smith. But even if Boult is not quite at his peak, his experience and counsel will be critical to New Zealand's chances of success. Even more so should they hand the pace baton over to Ferguson, who has pace to burn but would have to overcome the mental hurdles of entry into Test cricket on what, in Perth, will literally be the hottest stage imaginable.

Team news

Australia are set to be unchanged for the third consecutive Test, a level of stability undreamed of 12 months ago.

Australia 1 David Warner, 2 Joe Burns, 3 Marnus Labuschagne, 4 Steven Smith, 5 Travis Head, 6 Matthew Wade, 7 Tim Paine (capt & wk), 8 Pat Cummins, 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Nathan Lyon, 11 Josh Hazlewood

Lockie Ferguson may only make his Test debut for New Zealand if Trent Boult is not passed fit to play.

New Zealand (probable): 1 Tom Latham, 2 Jeet Raval, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Henry Nicholls, 6 BJ Watling (wk), 7 Colin de Grandhomme, 8 Mitchell Santner, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Trent Boult/Lockie Ferguson, 11 Neil Wagner.

ALSO READ: 'Hopefully there's some pace and bounce' - Langer makes Perth Test pitch

Pitch and conditions

The Perth Stadium pitch has plenty of grass on top and some moisture underneath, but in the prevailing conditions - temperatures are expected to hit 40C in Perth on each of the first four days - there is the likelihood of deterioration and cracking on a surface baked hard by the sun.

Stats and Trivia

  • Though they are yet to play at Perth Stadium, New Zealand boast a more than creditable record in the west. In seven matches at the WACA Ground, they have lost only twice. They were victorious once, in 1985, lost twice in 1980 and 1997, and secured draws in 1989, 1993, 2001 and 2015.

  • While currently in 17th place on the list of all-time run-makers in Tests between Australia and New Zealand with 784 runs, David Warner could climb all the way to second place behind Allan Border should he maintain the sort of prolific form he managed against Pakistan. A tally of 500 runs for the series would drive him beyond all others. Ross Taylor (13th, with 834 runs) is the only other current player thereabouts.

  • Steve Smith needs 97 runs to surpass Greg Chappell (7110) on Australia's all-time run-makers list.

New Zealand 4th innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
1st6JA RavalTWM Latham
2nd15KS WilliamsonTWM Latham
3rd36LRPL TaylorTWM Latham
4th0TWM LathamHM Nicholls
5th41BJ WatlingHM Nicholls
6th56C de GrandhommeBJ Watling
7th0BJ WatlingMJ Santner
8th0TG SoutheeMJ Santner
9th9TG SoutheeN Wagner
10th8TG SoutheeLH Ferguson