Can New Zealand take advantage of Australia’s stuttering form?

Two months ago, New Zealand left Sydney chastened by their 3-0 Test defeat after having gone across with high expectations only to suffer injury, illness and drubbings. Now they are back for this awkwardly-placed late-season ODI series and another chance to improve on a poor record when crossing the Tasman.

It has generally not been a pretty picture when New Zealand have gone to Australia. Before the recent Test series, there was an ODI thrashing in 2016 (along with a one-off T20I) which followed a 2-0 Test loss in 2015 and the heavy World Cup final defeat earlier that year. Their last victory in any format in Australia was the 2011 Test win in Hobart.

They have never won an ODI series, although they came close in the 2008-09 Chappell-Hadlee Series, when it was shared 2-2 after rained prevented a result in the decider at the Gabba with New Zealand pushing for a win. One of their most impressive runs against the home side came in the 2001-02 tri-series when they dominated Australia in the group matches before falling to South Africa in the finals.

ALSO READ: Middle-order make-up among Australia’s key questions

So there has, barring the occasional success, been a severe block for New Zealand visiting Australia regardless of how strong their side has been on paper. And this current ODI squad is very good; they have recently beaten India and the majority of the players were at the World Cup last year (when they also lost to Australia). Trent Boult and Lockie Ferguson, who both suffered injuries during the Test series, are back while Kyle Jamieson will be looking to build on his impressive start against India.

“We had a pretty good series against India, Test matches and one-dayers, so coming in here the guys seem in good form and excited,” Martin Guptill said. “It’s not often we get to play in Australia in one-day cricket.”

For New Zealand, it would seem like a decent time to try and win their first ODI series in Australia and retain the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy they have held since 2017 when the teams last played a bilateral series. The trophy was up for grabs at the 2017 Champions Trophy but the match was abandoned and it was decided not to compete for it at last year’s World Cup.

“I think it’s irrelevant who they put on the park, they always present a very good challenge,” David Warner said. “In one-day cricket and T20 they are very disciplined in what they do, led by a world-class player and gentleman in Kane (Williamson). He knows a lot of our players inside out, I’m sure they’ll bowl to their specific plans and when with the bat they’ll know what to do.”

The revival of Australia’s ODI form has hit the buffers with five defeats in a row following their ten-wicket win against India in Mumbai. While it is the middle-order that is coming in for most of the debate, Warner believes it is down to one of the top four to make sure they bat through the innings.

“The only thing I can put it down to is the top four not scoring the bulk of the runs,” Warner said. “You can’t do it all the time but at least one of us has to go on and be there at the end. It is disappointing but at the end of the day we’ve got to keep trying to get better at that, try to find a balance with our batting through the middle as well.”

Matthew Wade, who did not get a game in South Africa as he continues to wait for his first ODI since 2017, said Australia could take a leaf out of their book with the way a new-look batting order went about their work.

“[South Africa] had a lot of guys out and quite an inexperienced team and they did the basics a lot better than we did. They had guys get hundreds and bat the whole way through. We’ve got to strip it back and make sure we’re doing the basics really, really well in this series. New Zealand are a very disciplined cricket team and we know they will do it well.

“We’ve got to make sure one of the top four really bats through and makes a big hundred and in Australia we back our power towards the end on pretty true wickets. It’ll be nice to see if one of the top order can go through and bat the whole innings, that would be very helpful.”

There is the extra motivation for Australia in trying to go through the home summer unbeaten. They won five of the six T20Is against Sri Lanka and Pakistan (and would have won the other in Sydney but for rain), then swept the Tests against Pakistan and New Zealand 5-0. Life on the road over the last few weeks has been tougher, but these two games in Sydney followed by the final match in Hobart next week stand between them and a first unbeaten summer since 2009-10.

“We always want to win on home soil no matter how well we’ve been going,” Warner said. “The priority is to win every game at home, there’s no excuses, you have a lot of stuff in your favour.”

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