New Zealand looks to salvage pride against Australia in smoky Sydney

Depending on the pitch at the SCG, Australia could play two specialist spinners against New Zealand in the 3rd Test alongside its pace trio.

Two-nil up in the series and with a potent bowling attack to rely upon, Australia has the upper hand going into the Sydney Test. Photo: Getty Images

Smoke haze could come into play as New Zealand looks to salvage some pride from its miserable tour of Australia in the third and final Test in Sydney this week. With bushfires raging across New South Wales State, Day Two of the match on Saturday shapes up as the biggest challenge with temperatures forecast to soar and smoggy conditions expected.

Currently, it is up to the umpires to decide whether conditions are safe, without any formal framework for that decision.

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With the first two Tests at Perth and Melbourne ending in heavy defeats inside four days, New Zealand will need all the help it can get. Coach Gary Stead admitted the Black Caps were “beaten up by Australia again” in their 247-run Melbourne thrashing and they have had to go back to the drawing board.

‘Up against it’

“We’ve got to find some areas where we can keep chipping away, make improvements and put Australia under pressure for longer,” he said.

“When you get put under pressure for the periods Australia have put us under, then you have to question what we’re doing. Australia have three bowlers at 145 kph and a spinner (Nathan Lyon) that’s taken over 300 Test wickets so you’re always up against it. You don’t get a reprieve and that’s the hard thing for us.”

No let-up

The bright spot from Melbourne was makeshift opener Tom Blundell’s gritty second-innings century and he is set to retain the role alongside Tom Latham in Sydney. But there is doubt over skipper Kane Williamson, who has had a poor tour.

The New Zealand Herald reported that he missed training Wednesday with flu-like symptoms, with batsman Henry Nicholls suffering similar problems. Jeet Raval is the only specialist batsman waiting in the wings, but he has been out of form and was dropped for Melbourne.

The participation of Kane Williamson (left) and Henry Nicholls is doubtful as both are suffering from flu-like symptoms. Photo: Getty Images

 

Australian captain Tim Paine has made clear his team has no intention of easing up now the series has been won, with New Zealand potentially coming under a five-pronged attack in Sydney, starting on Friday.

Depending on the pitch, it could play two specialist spinners alongside its fast-bowling machine of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson. Leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson, championed by Shane Warne, has been called up to the squad and is keen to make his debut.

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“The team’s doing really well at the moment and it’s going to be a tough team to crack into,” he said. “But I’m here and going to be preparing to play. That’s the only thing I can do.”

New Zealand’s task has been that much harder with strike bowler Trent Boult ruled out after a Starc bouncer in Melbourne fractured his non-bowling hand. It has turned to off-spinner Will Somerville, who was raised in Australia, as his replacement.

“The fact he’s played a lot of cricket in Sydney during his career for New South Wales will also be helpful as we prepare for this final Test,” said Stead.

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