Thursday, November 27, 2008

New Zealand fight to stay seventh

Ross Taylor, who was his side's leading batsman in Brisbane, has a big job to do in the second Test.

Match facts
November 28 to December 2, 2008
Start time 10.30am (00.00GMT)

Big Picture
Australia won the first Test in Brisbane, though it was not as one-sided as they might have expected. But a win is a win and after they had not triumphed in any of the four Tests in India the result was welcome. The success became slightly overshadowed in the days that followed after news emerged of Andrew Symonds' latest bar-room incident. Symonds had only just made his comeback and some of his team-mates were frustrated at seeing him involved in more off-field drama but Cricket Australia decided he had done nothing wrong and he kept his place for the Adelaide match.

It is the final Test of the series and following the game several of the Australian players will rush to India for the Champions League Twenty20 - if it goes ahead following the terrorist attacks in Mumbai - while their team-mates can enjoy a two-week break ahead of the first Test against South Africa in Perth. New Zealand head home after this game to host a series against West Indies.

The stakes are high for the tourists. They cannot win the Trans-Tasman Trophy and the best they can do is draw the series. However, should they lose the match they will fall to eighth in the ICC's Test rankings, behind West Indies. It would leave them ahead of only Bangladesh and Zimbabwe and would increase their reputation as a challenging one-day side that struggles to adapt to the longer format.

Form guide (last five Tests, most recent first)
Australia WLDLD
New Zealand LDWLL

Watch out for
Matthew Hayden - The match should be a celebration for Hayden, who is playing his 100th Test. But in the past couple of weeks as much ink has been dedicated to speculation over his future as to reflecting on his achievements. Hayden has not made a Test century since he last played at this venue, when he posted 103 against India in January. A lingering achilles tendon injury stopped him from playing in the West Indies and since then he has averaged 26.88 from five Tests. A series-ending Test on a batting-friendly surface against a middling attack could be precisely what he needs to get back in form.

Ross Taylor - In a batting line-up that struggled severely in Brisbane, Taylor was the one man who threatened to get on top of Australia's bowlers. He top scored in both innings and his 75 in the second might have helped them save the game, had he had any help from his colleagues. Not a man whose score will trickle along with too many singles, Taylor has had his temperament questioned at Test level but his talent is without doubt. He likes playing Australia. In his first ODI against them he made 84 at better than a run a ball in Hobart and his 117 in a Chappell-Hadlee Trophy match set up a superb chase of 340 at Eden Park.

Team news
Australia' horses-for-courses selection policy has cost Shane Watson his position as the selectors were keen to include a specialist spinner on a surface where fast bowling is not always the most rewarding occupation. Things became more complicated when Jason Krejza hurt his right ankle at training and Nathan Hauritz was rushed into the squad. If Hauritz plays, he will be the sixth specialist spinner Australia have used in Tests this year following Brad Hogg, Stuart MacGill, Beau Casson, Cameron White and Krejza. The inclusion of Peter Siddle in the 12 has also meant Stuart Clark has been asked about his position this week, which is a strange scenario after Clark took six wickets in the first Test, but Siddle will be carrying the drinks.

Australia 1 Matthew Hayden, 2 Simon Katich, 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Michael Hussey, 5 Michael Clarke, 6 Andrew Symonds, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 Brett Lee, 9 Jason Krejza/Nathan Hauritz, 10 Mitchell Johnson, 11 Stuart Clark.

New Zealand added the offspinner Jeetan Patel to their squad and released the fast bowler Kyle Mills, who did not play in Brisbane. But Patel is not guaranteed of a spot and New Zealand would need to cut a fast bowler to accommodate him. The batting has also been boosted with the addition of Peter Fulton as a replacement for the allrounder Grant Elliott, who had little impact at the Gabba. Their top order was disappointing in the first Test, where they were four down for less than 80 in both innings, but they have few other options and Adelaide should provide a more comfortable experience for the batsmen.

New Zealand (probable) 1 Aaron Redmond, 2 Jamie How, 3 Jesse Ryder, 4 Ross Taylor, 6 Peter Fulton, 6 Daniel Flynn, 7 Brendon McCullum (wk), 8 Daniel Vettori (capt), 9 Tim Southee, 10 Iain O'Brien, 11 Chris Martin.

Pitch and conditions
A green-tinged Gabba pitch could hardly be more different from the expected surface at the Adelaide Oval, where scoring big totals has never been a problem. Only once in the past five Tests at the venue has the side batting first failed to post more than 500. West Indies could only manage 405 in 2005-06. It is a ground where spin generally has an effect and there have been plenty of long and fruitless days for seamers over the years. If ever there was a venue where win the toss automatically means batting first it is the Adelaide Oval; Mohammad Azharuddin in 1992 is the only Test captain to have sent the opposition in here in the past 25 years.

Stats and Trivia

* Hayden becomes the 11th Australian to reach 100 Tests.
* Australia have lost one Test at Adelaide Oval in the past 13 years - against India in 2003-04
* Last time the teams met in a Test in Adelaide Australia won by 213 runs but much has changed since then. Only three men from each team during that 2004-05 game will be turning out this week: Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden, Michael Clarke, Brendon McCullum, Daniel Vettori and Chris Martin.
* Vettori needs 90 runs to move into the top 10 all-time Test run scorers for New Zealand.

"Generally 95 times out of 100 we want to play a specialist spinner. We felt that Nathan was probably the best skilled and probably the most experienced of the spinners playing around Australia at the moment."
Ricky Ponting on Australia's call-up for Nathan Hauritz to cover for the injured Jason Krejza

"When you come to Adelaide it probably brings a bit more of a sense of calm about everything because you know how good the wicket is and the expectations to score runs."
Daniel Vettori expects his batsmen to have more impact than at the Gabba