Shaken Australia face stern NZ test in Chappell-Hadlee series

Australia captain Aaron Finch will hope Saturday’s debacle against Zimbabwe has served as the perfect wake-up call for his team heading into the three-match one-day international series against a formidable New Zealand on Tuesday.

The Chappell-Hadlee series between the trans-Tasman rivals could not take place in the last two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the travel restrictions that came with it. Kane Williamson’s New Zealand, currently the top ranked ODI team, arrived with a full-strength squad and having lost just one of their 12 Super League matches.

Finch’s Australia are still smarting from Saturday’s five-wicket loss in Townsville, which denied them a series sweep against Zimbabwe. “They’re a fantastic unit, they have been for a long time,” Finch told reporters on Monday.

“They continue to be one of the benchmarks in world cricket in all three formats of the game and the fact that they’re number one in ODI cricket at the moment is testament to that.”

Few would have more at stake in the series than the Australia captain who finds himself in the middle of a prolonged slump in form. The opener aggregated 21 runs in the series against Zimbabwe and aggregates 164 runs in 11 one-day innings that include a fifty.

“Obviously the performances personally haven’t been there in terms of the output of runs, but still feel like I’m a pretty good player,” he said. “You’re always looking to improve and I think being able to train consistently and keep tinkering with my game to get better is the most important thing.”

Williamson, who skipped the last two ODIs in West Indies with a quad injury, said his long-standing elbow injury had also subsided allowing him extended training sessions.

Their strong form notwithstanding, Williamson was taking nothing for granted.

“Always a really tough challenge, they are very clinical, certainly in their own backyards,” the 32-year-old told reporters. “It’s great to be over here and playing in another Chappel-Hadlee series as well.”There are three one-dayers in a pretty quick time and that for us as a white-ball unit is a lot to gain from.”

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