Black Caps a starter's chance against the Aussies
From Left Field
Pat Cummins hopefully won't become the name that haunts us as the Black Caps prepare to kickstart their international summer.
With respect, Zimbabwe don't exactly count, even taking the Black Caps' shock one-day cricket loss in Bulawayo into consideration. Brisbane is where the real trauma starts, with the first test against Australia due to begin at the Gabba on December 1.
A comparative glance at each team's preparation has the Aussies coming off a white-hot shared two-test series in South Africa and the Black Caps attempting to wring every positive they can out of their recent test win over Zimbabwe.
Michael Clarke's buoyant Aussies are fresh from a remarkable two-wicket victory against a highly-fancied South African side in Johannesburg, while Ross Taylor's Black Caps?
Well, let's just say they're a starter's chance.
Experience isn't even really the issue.
Eighteen-year-old Cummins was playing just his fourth first-class match when he picked up the man of the match award after his test debut in Jo'burg. And his six-wicket second-innings haul, against an assured Proteas batting lineup, will be among the issues capturing the Black Caps batsmen's attention.
Cummins might yet be too green to be considered a revelation but, by all accounts, the kid can deliver a kookaburra with devastating effect.
Alongside Peter Siddle and flaky left-armer Mitchell Johnson, Australia's pace attack will still be looking confidently at easing through the Black Caps' batsmen.
The mere fact that Australia won that second test is clear enough evidence that they're still a highly competitive outfit. Nevertheless, Black Caps coach John Wright should still be stressing the vulnerability of some once rock-solid Aussie performers.
As brittle as the Aussies traditionally think we are, so too are a number of the Aussies' key players.
Former captain Ricky Ponting and Brad Haddin are apparently on borrowed time but earned reprieves with crucial second-innings half centuries.
Johnson is cricket's equivalent of the French rugby team – world beater one day, dog tucker the next – and on paper at least, a Black Caps batting lineup of Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor, Brendon McCullum, Jesse Ryder, Kane Williamson and Dean Brownlie should be a handy enough foil for the anticipated Gabba onslaught.
Williamson is a potential headliner for many seasons to come, while Ryder already has been for entirely different reasons.
Now is Ryder's chance to genuinely shine and to shed the unflattering "fat boy" tag that he unwittingly seems to cultivate and which the Aussies will mercilessly exploit.
Capturing 20 Aussie wickets could still prove the Black Caps' most demanding task and in Chris Martin, Tim Southee and Trent Boult, honest endeavour doesn't necessarily equate to matchwinning firepower.
The pitch doesn't need to turn for Dan Vettori to be effective, although the seamers need to make some meaningful incursions.
The Black Caps' mental stamina is about to be sorely tested.
- © Fairfax NZ News