Barely five days after the last Aussie Kiwi contest, the two nations will go into battle again -- this time on the cricket pitch.
The international cricket season starts on Thursday in Australia with the hosts taking on New Zealand at the Gabba in Brisbane in the first of a three-Test series.
This match is being highly anticipated as the launch of a new era for Australian cricket with a new look line-up, especially in the batting stakes.
Joe Burns has been selected to join David Warner in the new opening partnership while Usman Khawaja will come in at the much coveted position of number three batsman.
The element of the unknown for what Australia can produce is offset by the momentum of the Kiwis coming off the back of a successful tour of England, drawing the Test series there.
In Australia’s favour however is its good record against New Zealand at the Gabba, having only lost once to them in nine Tests at the Brisbane ground.
Australia’s bowling stocks would seem relatively settled with Mitch Starc on fire in the domestic games leading up to this series and he is expected to make the most of the fast pitch. With a good mix of youth and experience in the pace attack, it’s actually one of the older, slower hands that has the numbers on the board.
The big test for Australia as far as the pundits are concerned will be the performance of the new captain, Steve Smith, who seems to have been around for years but is in fact facing the first thorough test of his captaincy with a new look squad -- and he’s relishing the challenge.
In what would seem to be the start of Australia’s inevitable pre-game banter, Smith has also taken aim at New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum over comments calling him ‘immature’ which the Kiwi made in early September, criticising Smith over the Ben Stokes’ incident during Australia’s tour of England.
The New Zealand players however are not troubled by Smith or other comments coming from the Aussies as the war of words begins fully expecting to be on the receiving end of some of Australia’s well-known sledging.
For the Black Caps, the batting line-up is solid with experience and runs on the board while the new young bowlers can’t wait to face the Australian batsmen.
McCullum says his team is establishing its own identity and the death of Phil Hughes was the catalyst for the change.
In a year when Australia and New Zealand seem to be facing each other on many sporting fields, this series should be no less intriguing or tightly contested and will reveal a great deal about both teams and where both find themselves situated in the scheme of world cricket.
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