Australia has demolished South Africa in Cape Town in the third and final T20 to win the series two-one.
Last summer was massive for New Zealand cricket, making the final of the One Day World Cup. This season has the potential to be just as significant for the Black Caps, with home and away series to be played against Australia in the more traditional five-day version of the game.
Even with Michael Clarke and Chris Rogers on board, the Australians were beaten 3-2 in this year’s Ashes.
Their team is now rebuilding and their top order looks even more vulnerable than they did during the Ashes without the experience of Clarke, Rogers and even Shane Watson.
The Black Caps’ last Test series resulted in a 1-all draw against England (just prior to the Ashes), where they again showed that it’s not just the one-day format where they have made significant progress under Brendon McCullum’s captaincy.
Like the Australians, New Zealand’s strength is in their pace bowling line-up – particularly their world-class openers Trent Boult and Tim Southee. The fact that both teams’ strength is their bowling bodes well for a series where we should get a result in the individual matches and also the series.
Kane Williamson is now New Zealand’s best batsman. One of his many strengths is that he is brighter than most international cricketers, and he knows better than anyone that the five Tests against Australia are a golden opportunity to make his mark on world cricket.
How Kane’s run-scoring stacks up against Australia’s best batsman, Steve Smith, will be crucial, because both can accumulate the kind of big scores their teams can base their innings round.
The form of Ross Taylor and David Warner will be crucial too. Like many players that play with fast hands and minimal footwork, both Taylor and Warner when in form are unrecognisable to the out-of-form versions of themselves.
Unfortunately New Zealand’s preparation for the series hasn’t been ideal. That still doesn’t explain why the bookies around the world have the Australian team as such warm favourites for this series – New Zealand’s TAB have Australia at $1.40 to win the series and New Zealand way out at $4.50.
A racehorse owner who loves a punt, McCullum’s gamble of batting first in the World Cup final backfired earlier in the year. He needs to bring his A game this time, with the bat and his captaincy, for the Black Caps to win the series.