Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Cricket: Australia the one that matters

David Warner. Photo / Getty Images
David Warner. Photo / Getty Images

New Zealand's paramount match at the Champions Trophy comes on Wednesday night against Australia.

Much will be made about the importance of starting strongly tomorrow against Sri Lanka, a team New Zealand hasn't beaten in one-day internationals since 2009 (at the last Champions Trophy). Six fixtures have been lost since.

But tomorrow's game won't be the clutch match to watch. Regardless of the result against Sri Lanka, New Zealand faces either a battle for survival or a chance to play for top in the group when they meet Australia.

Making it more intriguing is New Zealand's record against Australia in ODIs at neutral venues - one win from 18 matches over more than 25 years. It was a significant win, at Cardiff in 1999 against a side that went on to win the World Cup.

Many, including this writer, have warbled on about Australian vulnerability, only to be embarrassed.

One case was before the 2011 World Cup pool match in Nagpur, which New Zealand lost by seven wickets after having their chances talked up.

But New Zealand, including many of the current ODI personnel, have beaten Australia four times in their last 11 matches.

To see Australia dismissed for 65 chasing India's 308 in a Cardiff warm-up game was preposterous. They struggled with the ball and crumbled with the bat.

Compounding matters is captain Michael Clarke's lower back problem which might put him out of the tournament.

The onus goes on the experience of Shane Watson, David Warner, Mitchell Johnson and the youthful exuberance of Mitchell Starc to deliver some traditional 'Strayne-type grit, but they're far from an intimidating sight compared to Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting, Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath.

New Zealand coach Mike Hesson wisely opted for a one-game-at-a-time gambit when asked about the Australian threat yesterday.

"We haven't looked at them yet and we won't until two days out," Hesson said. "Australia's had a tough start to their warm-up games, but they are only warm-up games.

"I think you underestimate them at your peril. We know they've got aggressive seam bowlers and an attacking top order that can destroy you if you are off your mark. We'll certainly be doing some due diligence."

- NZ Herald

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