New Zealand look set to field a T20 side featuring their two most hyped emerging players when their five-match series against Australia starts in Christchurch.
Veteran guns like Kane Williamson, Trent Boult and Tim Southee will be complemented by highly rated up-and-comers Kyle Jamieson and Devon Conway, who shape as potential three-format stars in the years to come.
Notable omissions from New Zealand’s 14-man squad include experienced middle-order batsman Ross Taylor, damaging top-order striker Colin Munro, express quick Lockie Ferguson, and powerful all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme.
Yet the Kiwis will still field a dangerous line-up that should start as favourites against an understrength Australian side.
The Aussies will be without roughly half of their starting XI. Absent are T20 stars David Warner, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins, as well as fringe players Josh Hazlewood, Moises Henriques, Alex Carey, Sean Abbott and Mitchell Swepson.
This means we should get a look at Australia’s next-generation prospects like dynamic wicketkeeper-batsman Josh Philippe, teenage leg spinner Tanveer Sangha and paceman Riley Meredith.
Just as enticing will be the chance to finally see Jamieson and Conway in action against Australia.
There is so much hype behind beanpole quick Jamison that he fetched a jaw-dropping $2.7 million in last week’s Indian Premier League auction, making him the second-most expensive player.
Despite his limited achievements, Jamieson’s contract was seven times larger than that of Steve Smith, a proven IPL player with similar career IPL stats (average 35, strike rate 129) to Indian superstar Virat Kohli (average 38, strike rate 130).
Jamieson’s monster payday continues the longstanding trend of IPL teams paying over the odds for foreign players that have performed well against India in other formats. The 203 cm tall right-arm seamer took nine wickets at 16 as the Kiwis beat India 2-0 in their Test series in New Zealand last year. After six Tests Jamieson has the incredible figures of 36 wickets at 13, to go with 226 runs at 56.
In white-ball cricket, however, Jamieson remains untested against quality opposition. He has played just six limited-overs internationals, for a return of six wickets at 34. Almost all of his 37 career T20 matches have been played in New Zealand’s domestic Super Smash competition, which is well below the level of BBL, which in turn is well below the level of international cricket.
An accurate operator who bowls mostly in the low-to-mid 130 km/h range, Jamieson is most similar to Josh Hazlewood among the Aussie bowlers, although he tends to hold a fuller length. He would have been a fine addition to the New Zealand Test attack that was flayed last summer in Australia.
Jamieson remains untried outside of home conditions in Tests but his precision, startling bounce and fine seam position could make him effective in a variety of conditions.
It is less clear whether he has the tools to conquer T20 cricket. Jamieson should be a menace with the new ball against Australia, but his biggest challenge will come in the middle to late overs with a worn ball. That is when Test-style fast bowling can become cannon fodder, and variety is key.
While he hasn’t received nearly as much international attention as Jamieson, Conway’s had Kiwi fans salivating for years now. The South African strokemaker only qualified to play for New Zealand six months ago. That date couldn’t come quick enough for Kiwi followers, who had watched with glee as Conway pummelled domestic attacks.
The 29-year-old left-hander has an outstanding first-class record with 7084 runs at 47, and has dominated the New Zealand first-class competition, the Plunkett Shield, with 2008 runs at 69.
Conway also owns an excellent List A record – 3104 runs at 45 – and an incredible T20 record of 2850 runs at 43 with a strike rate of 128.
He is not a slugger. Similar to Williamson or Smith, he is a technically-correct batsman who uses his red-ball pedigree to be a consistent run maker in T20s. He has been at his best playing the anchor role in the shortest format, similar to that pair of superstars.
But in his brief career for New Zealand, Conway has shown that he can blast attacks when necessary. In just his second T20, Conway unleashed on the West Indies, hammering 65* from 37 balls. He shapes as a terrific prospect in all three formats, just like Jamieson, and could finally provide Tom Latham with a stable Test opening partner.
Tune in on Monday to get a gander at New Zealand’s next big things as they tackle a rookie-laden Australian squad.
New Zealand’s best XI
1. Martin Guptill
2. Tim Seifert (wk)
3. Kane Williamson (c)
4. Devon Conway
5. Glenn Phillips
6. James Neesham
7. Kyle Jamieson
8. Mitchell Santner
9. Tim Southee
10. Trent Boult
11. Ish Sodhi
12. Mark Chapman
13. Hamish Bennett
14. Finn Allen
Australia’s best XI
1. Aaron Finch (c)
2. Marcus Stoinis
3. Ben McDermott
4. Glenn Maxwell
5. Josh Philippe (wk)
6. Mitchell Marsh
7. Ashton Agar
8. Jhye Richardson
9. Adam Zampa
10. Jason Behrendorff
11. Kane Richardson
12. Matthew Wade
13. Tanveer Sangha
14. Ashton Turner
15. D’Arcy Short
16. Andrew Tye
17. Riley Meredith