Chappell-Hadlee Trophy Preview - Aaron Kumar

Australia host New Zealand in a three-match ODI series which kicks off on December 14 in Adelaide. The other two games will be contested in Sydney and Hobart. After winning their third consecutive ICC Cricket World Cup in the West Indies earlier this year, Australia had a six month period with no international cricket. Their re-entrance to the world stage didn’t provide the Australians with the success and silverware that they have come to expect, as they were beaten by India at the semi-final stage of the ICC World Twenty. Mahendra Dhoni’s men went on to win the tournament. Any thoughts that Australia’s failure to add the Twenty20 World Championship to their trophy cabinet signalled the beginning of the end of Australian dominance were quickly laid to rest, as they defeated India 4-2 in India, underlining once more their dominance in the 50 over form of the game. While Australia appear to have further enhanced their reputation as the best one-day side in world cricket, it should be noted that the month just prior to the World Cup Australia lost five games in a row their worst streak in many years. Having regained the Ashes, crushing England 5-0, Australia went into the Commonwealth Bank one-day series (which also involved England and New Zealand) as overwhelming favourites. However, in the best of three match final they were brushed aside by England who ensured that they left Australian soil with at least some pride restored. Following the setback of the defeat in the finals of the Commonwealth Bank series, Australia headed to New Zealand for the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy. With that series being so close to the World Cup. Australia decided to rest skipper Ricky Ponting and vice-captain Adam Gilchrist. Andrew Symonds did not tour as he picked up a bicep injury just prior to the series. On the eve of the first match of the Chappell-Hadlee series, Brett Lee injured his ankle in training. He was forced to pull out of the tour and would also miss the World Cup. All of this meant that Michael Hussey was left captaining a new look Australian team. However, this change in personnel did not provide Australia with the boost that they were looking for, as they were soundly beaten 3-0 by New Zealand. New Zealand won the first match comprehensively, by ten wickets, before remarkably chasing down in excess of 300 twice in succession to inflict the whitewash on Australia. Given the fact that Australia had rested players and were very much thinking ahead to the World Cup tournament, that result should be seen as a blip, which Ricky Ponting’s men duly demonstrated by their triumph in the Caribbean. However, the manner in which those results were achieved, must have given New Zealanders a boost .There were brilliant individual performances from the likes of Brendon McCullum and Craig McMillan. Indeed the Kiwis carried their form into the World Cup reaching the last four for the fifth time, but they failed to break their semi-final duck and reach their maiden final. More recently, New Zealand narrowly lost a three-match ODI series in South Africa against Graeme Smith’s men. Had New Zealand won the final game it would have been their first ODI series victory against South Africa, in South Africa. It is without doubt that both sides go into this contest in fairly good form. However this time it is New Zealand with many changes in personnel. Stephen Fleming, the longest ever serving NZ captain, who led his team to the 3-0 triumph, has now retired from ODI cricket and Daniel Vettori is at the helm, while pace sensation Shane Bond has failed to recover from an abdominal tear which he sustained in South Africa. It is fair to say that these two teams always bring out the best in each other. Australia are playing this series at home, they are confident, seeking revenge and have a fully fit squad to pick from. All of these factors make New Zealand’s task of defending their trophy incredibly daunting; it is hard to see history repeating itself. If New Zealand didn’t already know how hungry the Australians are they would have taken note of, arguably one of the most hostile spells of pace bowling you are ever likely to see, with Shaun Tait, Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson all bowling with frightening pace and venom to help Australia overpower New Zealand by 54 runs in the Twenty20 International which preceded the main event. Aaron Kumar © Cricket World 2007