The Fab Four label is often used to describe the quartet of Steve Smith, Joe Root, Kane Williamson and Virat Kohli.
The Black Caps have just completed their second straight Test series win in as many years against England. Under the captaincy of Kane Williamson, New Zealand have soared to number two on the International Cricket Council Test rankings – and rightfully so.
They have racked up series wins at home against everyone bar South Africa since 2016. Last year, the Black Caps achieved an amazing feat – winning a Test series in the United Arab Emirates against Pakistan without their main spinner Mitchell Santner. They arrive on our shores soon in good nick and will be a potent threat to Tim Paine’s men. Time to check the 15 men selected to battle us.
The opener is struggling for form ever since he scored his maiden Test ton against Bangladesh earlier this year. Averaging 32 as an opener after 22 Tests isn’t great – but he is a much better player than his stats suggest. Despite growing up in the slow and low pitches in Gujarat alongside the likes of Parthiv Patel and Ravindra Jadeja, his stats in Asia are surprisingly very poor.
Raval enjoys pitches with more pace and bounce – which is why I’m confident he can overturn his string of low scores with the bounce on offer on Australian pitches. Whether he gets big scores or not, one thing he does very well is blunt the new ball attack and I’m tipping him to do just that.
This is the best opener in Test cricket right now – criminally underrated and a much better player than the one who toured Australia four years ago. In his last 11 Test innings, Latham has racked up five hundreds.
The hunger to convert his starts to bigger scores have coincided with the added responsibility of being the vice captain. Adapting to the bounce will be his challenge but – being the mature cricketer he is – Latham has the capability of frustrating the Aussie bowlers immensely this series.
Where do I even start on this bloke? He has got a Test ton against all of his opponents including an impressive century on debut in India. Averaging over 50 in Test cricket, Williamson will be the big fish for the Aussie bowlers.
His ability to adapt on any surface is freakish and he is able to play two different shots to almost every ball. However – like many batsmen – they are at their most vulnerable in the first half hour they spend at the crease. No freebies and bowling at a fourth or fifth stump line will be key to keep the pressure on the New Zealand skipper.
You underestimate champions at your level – and Ross Taylor has achieved many accolades in international cricket. Last time he was on our shores, he smashed 290 – albeit on a road – but a quality innings nonetheless. Taylor likes to take on the bowlers but he is also able to adapt and play the waiting game if required. With a century in his last innings, Taylor will be looking to ensure that wasn’t a one off innings – and produce a string of big runs consistently against Australia.
The perfect example of the rewards of sticking with a player for the long run. In 29 Tests, Nicholls has scored five Test tons – and against quality attacks. He has the ability to dig in under pressure as seen in his tons against South Africa and Pakistan – and will be a vital cog in the Black Caps’ quest to create history.
ESPN Cricinfo writer Andrew Fidel Fernando describes the Kiwi keeper perfectly. “If New Zealand are the team that do great things that barely get noticed in the wider cricket world, BJ is the New Zealand of New Zealand”.
He knows how to get his side out of a crisis and score tough runs – his recent tons versus Sri Lanka and England prove it. Despite being a limited player in terms of stroke making, Watling has slowly developed his attacking game lately and is always delivering for his team even when put outside his comfort zone.
Colin de Grandhomme
A very underrated all rounder to say the least, de Grandhomme averages 40 with the bat and 29 with the ball – not bad for a so called bits and pieces all rounder. While he is naturally an aggressive batsman, one of my personal favourite innings of his has to be from Christchurch last year.
With New Zealand 5-36 and trailing England by 270 odd runs, de Grandhomme scored a patient 72 before battling hard for a gritty 45 in the second innings as New Zealand miraculously held on for a draw. He will be very effective with the pink ball in Perth and his overs will be very crucial for New Zealand’s chances.
This is Daniel Vettori 2.0 – he’s even got the glasses to back it up. Batting at Number 8, Santner never gets flustered under pressure and plays well according to the situation. With the ball, he won’t be used as an attacking option in Perth. However in the Boxing Day and New Year Tests – where the pitches will have more assistance for spinners – Santner will be a handful for Steve Smith and co.
A quality swing bowler to say the least, Southee will enjoy the Perth pitch as it will resemble those that he bowls on in New Zealand. However in Melbourne and Sydney he will have to bowl cleverly as there won’t be much swing on offer. But he is a very experienced campaigner with 69 Tests in his belt – his new ball spells could dictate New Zealand’s hopes of taking 20 wickets each Test.
How he wasn’t in their squad to tour Australia in 2015 still baffles me. Ranked number three in the ICC Test bowlers rankings, Wagner is a dangerous bowler – and for a bloke who bowls mid 120s to low 130s he generates a lot of bounce. He loves to use the short ball and will stick to his guns, so don’t be surprised seeing body line type fields set when he steams in.
Another quality bowler who is a better player than the last time he came to our shores four years ago. Boult is probably bowling at his fastest nowadays and this will be more crucial considering the lack of swing on offer bar the first Test. He has developed a very mean bouncer and if he gets on song early, Australia’s middle and lower order could be exposed earlier than usual.
Possibly the fastest bowler in New Zealand cricket at the moment, his extra pace gives the Kiwis the X factor that they’ll need. Despite not playing a Test match, he has a very god first class record – averaging 24 with the ball. He will get a Test and will trouble the Aussie batsmen as he’s more accurate with his pace compared to the inconsistent lines and lengths Nadeem Shah and Muss Khan provided.
A handy wicketkeeper to have. However with Watling’s form, Blundell may have to settle warming the bench and carrying the drinks. The only way he could realistically play is if Raval fails to perform in the first two Tests and Blundell starts off 2020 opening alongside Latham.
Another fine swing bowler, however he is most likely going to be warming the bench throughout the series as – bar the pink ball test – he won’t be enjoying bowling on Australian pitches.
This is probably one of the selections that New Zealand didn’t get right – Ajaz Patel and Will Somerville are far better options as second spinner than Astle, but he somehow gets on the plane. If he plays any games, it’ll be the Sydney Test playing as the second spinner – but he will have to tighten his lines or else calls for Patel or Somerville to have been in this squad will have been justified.
Winning a Test series in Australia is always tough and only South Africa have been able to achieve that consistently lately. Whether they win this series or not, this will be a very tightly fought series between the two rivals. With 180 World Test Championship points on offer, neither side will leave any stone unturned.