There is a familiar refrain that there is no easy game in international sport. This is one of the examples that rings true. These two sides are separated by the Tasman Sea but in terms of competitiveness in their sporting sides, there are few rivals.
This series has the air of a warm-up before the real stuff kicks-off in the West Indies in a couple of months, but don’t expect either of these sides to take the hand break off in trying to best each other.
The expectations of both teams differ in certain regards. Australia has had what seem like an unbelievable break in fixtures. A gap that few international sides have the luxury of taking. If that was a good thing or not remains to be seen. In some regards, the fact that important players like Ellyse Perry have been able to recharge the batteries is a good thing while some younger players could have done with more competitive competition before such an important time in the calendar.
The injury of Ashleigh Gardner again to a concussion will no doubt be of concern. Australia does, however, have an abundance of attacking batting options that it is almost an unenviable task trying to fit them all into the team.
Elyse Villani may have been the obvious casualty at the top of the order, however during the Kia Super League she looked natural in the finisher’s role at the end of the innings. With Beth Mooney the most obvious to open the batting it looks a four-shootout out who will open the batting with her between Alyssa Healy, Rachael Haynes, Ashleigh Gardner and Ellyse Perry.
Perry will more than likely bat at three with Healy opening the batting and Haynes the one to miss out. The fitness of Gardner may mean she misses out altogether. It is a tough task and one I don’t envy.
With Jess Jonassen injured, other spin options can be looked at. Australia have some young all-rounders who can fill those spots. Gardner is one of those candidates, along with Sophie Molineux and Georgia Wareham.
New Zealand have had a crisis of confidence with the tour of England going poorly. They appear to be reliant on a few senior players.
That the form of Suzie Bates suffered during the English summer will be the biggest concern. She is the type of player that New Zealand need to perform. She sets herself high standards and she usually fulfils them. It would be no surprise if in the next couple of months that we see that player. Having passed on the captaincy to Amy Satterthwaite it means that Bates has more time to prepare her own game.
Another player that New Zealand will be looking towards is Sophie Devine who had an exceptional Kia Super League season. She was a constant threat with both bat and ball and was only piped to the leading wicket-taker tag in the final.
The spin bowling department relies on the young Amelia Kerr who has excelled in that role. She not only picks up wickets but rarely goes for many runs. Kerr showed her worth in England as she performed insides that were struggling for form.
While Australia aren’t necessarily sure of who their best side is, New Zealand pretty much know theirs but just need to find some semblance of form. With that in mind, this should be a great curtain raiser for things to come.