Australia and New Zealand have just completed two comprehensive victories over their respective opponents, Pakistan and England.
This sets up beautifully the upcoming series commencing on December 12 at Optus Stadium. Tests also follow on December 26 at the MCG – where the Black Caps have not played a Boxing Day Test since 1987, when Kane Williamson wasn’t even born – then on to the SCG on January 3, 2020.
In terms of opposition, NZ will be slightly more battle-hardened after playing a virtually full-strength English team. They have, however, just thrashed them by an innings and 65 runs.
BJ Watling, Mitchell Santner and Neil Wagner were the heroes for the Black Caps.
The manner of victory bodes well for the series against Australia. The Australians also routed Pakistan, but against weaker opposition, will that give them an inflated view of themselves?
How will they fare against a very strong all-round NZ bowling attack? The Black Caps can select from Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Wagner, Matt Henry and Lockie Ferguson with Santner the spinning option. Add in the medium pace of Colin de Grandhomme and the Australian batting will be tested.
How do the captains compare?
On batting, Williamson obviously wins, and the best leader? Tim Paine has done a great job in helping to change the culture of the Australian team and has critics who have underestimated his role. But if one team was selected from Australia and New Zealand, Williamson would be the captain.
The Black Caps do appear to have a weakness with their opening batsmen with Jeet Raval and Tom Latham not in great form against England. Raval’s batting average after 21 Tests is 34. Latham’s is better, with an average of 43 after 46 matches. But will Raval cope with the pace of Mitch Starc and Pat Cummins?
Ross Taylor and Williamson will be relied upon to provide solidity needed against Australia.
With Australia having Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne, the batting advantage is with them.
So, on paper, Australia would appear to be favourites for the series against the Black Caps, but as was seen at the Cricket World Cup, NZ play very well as a team – a quality no opposition can underestimate.
The MCG Test should be a magnificent occasion with two highly competitive teams battling it out.