First Test – starts 10:30am local time on Friday, February 12, 2016 at Basin Reserve, Wellington
New Zealand – $2.70 at Bet365.com
Draw – $4.25 at Luxbet.com
Australia – $2.30 at Bet365.com
New Zealand – 6th
Australia – 2nd
New Zealand – L D L W W
Australia – D W W W D
AUSTRALIA’S tour of New Zealand continues this Friday with the first Test at Wellington, less than three months after they wrapped up a 2-0 series win on home soil.
Both sides have a point to prove: the Kiwis will want to make up for their underwhelming displays back in November, while the Aussies will wish to shake off the indignity of their recent 2-1 defeat in the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy.
Despite the ODI results, online bookmaker CrownBet.com has Australia down as $2.40 favourites to make it nine Test series victories out of 11 attempts against their eastern neighbours.
New Zealand are $3.75 at Bet365 to reclaim the trophy for the first time since 1990, while Sportsbet is paying $3 for a drawn series.
The Black Caps will be hindered by the loss of the experienced Ross Taylor, who will miss the series as he recovers from a side strain.
They will also be without Mitchell Santner after scans following the second one-dayer last weekend showed a bruised bone in the young allrounder’s right foot.
“It’s unfortunate for Mitch as he’s been a key player for us so far this summer,” New Zealand coach Mike Hesson told local media this week.
“The positive news is that we picked it up early and hopefully Mitch can make a quick recovery.”
While Santner could be available for the second Test in Christchurch, offspinner Mark Craig will take his place in the squad in the meantime.
Also back in the fold is Tim Southee, who hasn’t played for his country since suffering a foot injury in the New Year Test against Sri Lanka.
The 27-year-old seamer returned to first-class action with Northern Districts last week and is now set to rekindle his fruitful new-ball partnership with Trent Boult.
Along with the in-form Matt Henry, the hard-working Doug Bracewell and the mercurial Corey Anderson, they could cause real problems for an Aussie outfit which is sorely lacking in red-ball experience on the other side of the ditch.
The tourists haven’t played a Test match in New Zealand since 2010, when the team sheet featured the likes of Ricky Ponting, Simon Katich, Michael Hussey, Marcus North, Nathan Hauritz, Doug Bollinger and the late Phillip Hughes.
With Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin, Ryan Harris and Mitchell Johnson all recently retired, not one player in the current squad boasts any Test experience in Kiwi conditions.
The lack of a scheduled tour match also means the visitors haven’t had the benefit of a hit-out, with the exception of the West Australians and New South Welshmen who played in the Sheffield Shield clash in Lincoln last week.
Australia’s batsmen have struggled on the greener pitches of England in recent Ashes tours, while the seamers – notably Josh Hazlewood and James Pattinson – have often failed to take full advantage of such circumstances.
Much will rest on the experience of Peter Siddle, especially if Pattinson’s shin soreness flares up.
The fallback options are Jackson Bird, who hasn’t played for Australia since August 2013, and the uncapped South Australian seamer Chadd Sayers.
New Zealand Test squad
Brendon McCullum (captain)
* Cover for Watling (back injury)
Australia Test squad
Steve Smith (captain)
Result – Australia to win ($2.70 at Bet365)
First innings lead – New Zealand ($2.08 at CrownBet)
With the number one ICC Test ranking on the line, the Aussies will want to get off to a flyer at the Basin.
A lack of preparation could well hinder them, however, especially as those players outside the ODI and T20 squads have only just returned to domestic action in the Sheffield Shield.
There are also questions about how the likes of Smith, Khawaja and the Marsh brothers, who have had their issues against good swing bowling in the past, will cope if the Kiwi quicks get the ball moving through the air.
But the numbers are firmly with the visitors, who have lost only one Test match against NZ since 1993.
Top batsman bets
New Zealand – Henry Nicholls ($7 at Bet365)
With Taylor out, young Nicholls is poised to make his Test debut. The 24-year-old looked the goods at number four during the Chappell-Hadlee series, impressing with a well-made 61 in the first match.
Australia – Adam Voges ($6 at CrownBet)
The veteran West Australian has had a terrific summer. He starred against the West Indies with 375 runs in two unbeaten innings, and he showed all of that form with his century in the Shield match in NZ last week.
Best bowler odds
New Zealand – Matt Henry ($4.33 at Bet365)
It’s not yet certain who will play as the third seamer in Wellington, but Henry has to be the favourite. He was the Black Caps’ best bowler in the ODI series, snaring eight wickets at a strike rate of 19.5.
Australia – James Pattinson ($3.75 at Bet365)
With Mitchell Starc out injured, Pattinson is Australia’s biggest weapon. He was erratic at times on his return to Test cricket in the Frank Worrell Trophy, but his pace and movement are deadly when he finds his rhythm.
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