January 3, 2020
Australia v New Zealand
Venue: SCG | Start: 10:30am (AEDT)
Australia – There’s very little Australia will change for their fifth and final test of the summer – and for good reason. They have dominated all before them in the last six weeks, and despite the expectations that world’s second-best side in New Zealand would provide a stiff test, have won the series two tests by 296 and 247 runs respectively. This, of course, after consigning Pakistan to two consecutive innings’ defeats. The biggest question is whether young leg spinner Mitchell Swepson will make his test debut and if so, who makes way for him. Australia are pondering dual spin at the SCG and Swepson has said he is ‘preparing to play’.
Once again, Australia fulfilled its ‘bat once, bat big’ mentality in the second test at the MCG, posting 467 in the first innings to all but snuff out any hopes of a Kiwi victory. This time Travis Head (114) and Tim Paine (79) got in on the act, putting on 150 for the sixth wicket. The wider spread of contributors is perhaps the most pleasing aspect of the summer thus far for coach Justin Langer. Australia’s almost unhealthy reliance on Steve Smith during this year’s Ashes has been eased, the runscoring machine has scored *just* 191 runs at 31.8 this summer – half his career average.
James Pattinson came in for Josh Hazlewood and fulfilled the third seamer’s role brilliantly on his home deck in Melbourne, snaring match figures of 6/69. He will play again in Sydney – Hazlewood having not recovered from his hamstring injury in time.
New Zealand – It’s all gone rather pear shaped for Kane Williamson and his Black Caps side this summer. For a series that promised so much, their quest to become the first Kiwi side to win on Aussie shores in 34 years has been brutally shut down by a dominant Australian side. And while that dream is now well and truly over, they’ll be desperate to show some fight at the SCG.
On a selection front, Matt Henry will almost certainly replace the injured Trent Boult, who suffered a broken hand at the hands of Mitchell Starc. But that won’t be the last change they make. Mitchell Santner has been ineffective since touching down in Australia, returning series figures of 1/250, and looks almost certain to be axed. Leg spinner Todd Astle was the obvious replacement until New Zealand decided to draft in off-spinner Will Somerville after Boult’s injury. Somerville played four seasons with NSW and knows the SCG pitch better than any of his Kiwi teammates and is now the frontrunner. There remains, however, an option of picking two spinners given the SCG’s tendency for spin, and a shakeup of the squad would be no surprise given the ease with which their XI has been beaten in both Perth and Melbourne.
Betting Analysis – As mentioned, the SCG is the most spin-friendly in the country and given the recent spate of hot weather in Sydney, is likely to provide consistent turn in the back half of this test match at least. As such, look for Nathan Lyon to continue his brilliant summer for the Aussies with the ball. The difference between Lyon and Santner (11 wickets compared to one) has been one of they key gaps between the side. On a batting front, Steve Smith will be desperate to finish the summer on a high after a lean period by his lofty standards, and remains an obvious top runscorer bet. For the Kiwis, Kane Williamson is a proud cricketer and one who won’t be proud of his output thus far this series (57 runs @ 14.25). Back him to bounce back at the SCG. For the ball, look out for the returning (and fresh) Matt Henry to cause issues, particularly with the variable bounce likely later on in the test.
Head to Head: Australia
Top Runs Scorer – Australia: Steve Smith
Most Wickets – Australia: Nathan Lyon
Top Runs Scorer – New Zealand: Kane Williamson
Most Wickets – New Zealand: Matt Henry