If there is one word to describe the way New Zealand plays its cricket, it has to be clever.
New Zealand pace star Shane Bond has delivered the first verbal bouncer, declaring Australia have received an easy run all summer and his team are “a huge chance” of regaining the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy.
For a fast bowler with 35 one-day wickets against Australia at 14.45, Bond is ably qualified to comment and he insisted New Zealand were in a good mental state ahead of Australia’s first full tour across the Tasman in five years.
The Australians fly in to Wellington on Wednesday to prepare for two Twenty20 internationals, the annual five-match Chappell-Hadlee ODI series then two Tests.
And while Ricky Ponting’s men have swept all before them at home this summer, unbeaten while winning Tests and one-day series against West Indies and Pakistan, Bond was not intimidated by that form.
“Even though (Australia) have played bloody well they’ve had a relatively easy run in terms of the pressure they’ve been put under,” said Bond.
“Hopefully we can put them under some huge pressure and I think if we do that we’ve got a huge chance.”
New Zealand’s leading paceman missed the recent Bangladesh series to rest an abdominal tear which saw him call time on his Test career, but after several outings for his province he said he felt ready for the T20s and Chappell-Hadlee series.
Injuries have restricted him to just one ODI against the old enemy in the past three years – the Champions Trophy final defeat in South Africa last October.
He was absent for last summer’s 2-2 thriller in Australia when New Zealand were on track to win the decider in Brisbane only for rain to intervene.
That left the overall Chappell-Hadlee ledger between the sides poised at seven wins apiece.
“You call back on all those results that you’ve had against them (Australia),” said Bond.
“It’s just having that ability to lift your game again when you come up against them.
“They’re a strong side but there’s a lot of new faces as well so from my point of view you take heart that you’ve probably faced stronger Australian sides.”
While Michael Clarke leads the tourists in the tour-opening T20s, Ponting will join in for the first ODI in Napier next Wednesday to resume his joust with Bond who has dismissed him six times in 10 ODI meetings.
Ponting’s numbers in New Zealand are outstanding: 293 runs at 97.66 in the 2005 Test series; 525 runs at 58.33 in 13 ODI’s and 98 not out off 55 balls in the 2005 Twenty20 match.
“It’s been a while since I got him out … but against those blokes I always believe if I bowl as well as I can then I’ll have success,” said Bond.
“That’s all I’ve tried to do, bowl my best stuff and keep coming hard at them because they’ll come hard back.”
With Bond and all-rounder Scott Styris back, plus the hitting power of Ross Taylor and Jacob Oram and the self-belief of recent close contests, the ODI series should be tightly-fought but it’s the Test series that will cause anxious glances among New Zealand cricket followers.
On evidence of the Bangladesh win, concerns remain over the top-order and the ability of the bowling attack to take 20 wickets against Ponting, Clarke, Shane Watson, Michael Hussey and company.
Bond will be absent along with Iain O’Brien, which will leave the onus on Chris Martin to lead the way and captain Daniel Vettori to toil on pitches in Wellington and Hamilton that the home side hope will assist spin bowling.