- Publish Date
- Monday, 9 December 2019, 12:15PM
The Black Caps' test series against Australia starts on Thursday, and with it comes a rare sense of expectation from the New Zealand cricket community.
It's not necessarily an expectation that the Black Caps will win the three-test series, but an expectation that the series will be competitive, and the Black Caps will put themselves in position to potentially achieve several rare accomplishments.
There were concerns yesterday that the Boxing Day test, the centrepiece of Australia's test cricket calendar and the first to feature New Zealand since 1987, is under threat after a dangerous pitch forced a domestic four-day game to be abandoned.
Cricket Australia has pledged to get the Boxing Day test pitch right — and it will be a different one from that used at the weekend.
The New Zealanders begin their test campaign against Australia in Perth, with a day-night, pink-ball encounter.
The Black Caps have already had a marquee year, thanks to their World Cup exploits and superb test series unbeaten run, but Australia are the toughest challenge yet in the test arena for this particular generation of New Zealand cricketers.
The Black Caps have only won three times in 31 tests played in Australia, and have only won one out of the 12 series played across the ditch — way back in 1985. The famous seven-run win in Hobart in 2011 is the only test they've won in Australia since that year, and rare are the occasions that the contests have even been close.
However, with Tom Latham emerging as a world-class test opener to support the likes of Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor, and the Black Caps having a core of batsmen averaging over 40, there is reason to believe they will fare better in this series, even given Australia's fearsome bowling attack.
In Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner the Black Caps have one of the best seam-bowling trios in the world, and coach Gary Stead could also unleash World Cup standout Lockie Ferguson for his test debut.
It doesn't quite add up to the all-around luxury Australia possess — David Warner, Steve Smith, Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc are just part of the daunting challenge that awaits — but with a day-night test in Perth, a Boxing Day extravaganza in Melbourne and a finale in Sydney, the Black Caps have three varying surfaces and conditions in which to try and claim another historic scalp.
This time, the Black Caps have reasons for optimism as well — and it's not often Kiwi cricket fans could claim that.
This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission