This series has been a long time coming. Australia and New Zealand started a Chappell-Hadlee contest just days before the world was shut down by the pandemic, the opening game played behind closed doors at the SCG, before New Zealand had to make a hasty journey home with borders shutting.
Matches were then on the schedule in both the 2021 and 2022 seasons only for both to fall by the wayside as international travel, even between two close neighbours, remained problematic due to quarantine requirements. So now, in late 2022 as winter turns to spring in Australia, they will finally face each other again.
And it is uncertain when it will be played again after this series. Under the 2023-27 Future Tours Progamme, the two teams are not scheduled to face each other in bilateral ODIs. It seems a massive shame that the neighbours can’t find a week in the calendar more often.
(last five matches, most recent first)
New Zealand WWLWW
In the spotlight
It’s hard to look beyond the Australia captain. Aaron Finch made 21 runs in three innings against Zimbabwe to continue a tough year in ODIs. A strong return in Cairns will quieten the topic, but New Zealand’s pace attack will provide a tough examination. Finch’s record against New Zealand is also his worst in the format with an average of 17.20 from 10 ten matches, although he did make 60 at the SCG back in 2020.
The main decision for Australia would appear to be whether to retain the same XI from the last two games in Townsville or replace Ashton Agar with a pace-bowling allrounder option in Sean Abbott. Marnus Labuschagne and Josh Inglis are also part of the squad.
Australia (probable) 1 Aaron Finch (capt), 2 David Warner, 3 Steven Smith, 4 Alex Carey (wk), 5 Marcus Stoinis, 6 Cameron Green, 7 Glenn Maxwell, 8 Ashton Agar/Sean Abbott, 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Adam Zampa, 11 Josh Hazlewood
For New Zealand it could be a call between Michael Bracewell as another spin-bowling allrounder or Glenn Phillips as a batter in the middle order. A fit-again Matt Henry will push for inclusion in the pace attack.
New Zealand (probable) 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Finn Allen, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Devon Conway, 5 Daryl Mitchell, 6 Glenn Phillips, 7 Jimmy Neesham, 8 Mitchell Santner, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Lockie Ferguson, 11 Trent Boult
Pitch and conditions
As in Townsville, it is again a little bit of the unknown given the lack of international cricket at the venue. The day-night element will remove the impact of the early-morning starts in the Zimbabwe series, instead it might be whether conditions change under lights. After some recent rain, the forecast is warm and sunny, but the pitch has been under cover a bit which could mean some early life with Finch expecting a challenge against the new ball.
Stats and trivia
“They are a world-class side…they are a fantastic unit and have been for a long time to be one of the benchmarks in all three formats. The fact they are world No. 1 in the ODI cricket is testament to that.”
Aaron Finch on New Zealand
“We know how strong this Australian side is, the quality they have throughout, so for us it’s a great opportunity to play against one of the best teams in the world and for us to execute the things that are important to us so looking forward to the challenge.”
More mutal respect, this time from Kane Williamson
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo