Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Bullied by the boys next door

Sydney's a far cry from our home turf.
Fast bowler Mitchell Starc is a handful on home soil. Picture / AP
Fast bowler Mitchell Starc is a handful on home soil. Picture / AP

Aussies love to talk up their sporting achievements, it's a national trait to give the green and gold plenty of rah, rah, rah.

That patriotism gets a bit over the top with some nauseating layers of flag-waving heard around the cricket commentary areas. Verbal treacle from Ian Healy or Michael Slater, led by the ingratiating Mark Nicholas, is as distracting as Steve Smith's twitchy stance.

We are not immune over this side of the ditch but let's hope the combative Ian Smith is there to share the microphone with the more jingoistic dingoes.

Some of the best recent sportwas watching Australia squirm, then the public and selectors turn themselves inside out as South Africa put them in their cricket vice grip.

Shame about the pink ball third test result in Adelaide but perhaps it was best because a swaggering South African, like a bombastic All Black supporter, is not a thing of beauty either.

Widespread confidence will be oozing through Australia that they have turned the corner and their No1 rated limited overs side will wipe out New Zealand in the Chappell-Hadlee series.

Sadly it feels that way. New Zealand are ranked No3 but, on Australian tracks, the sides look further apart than that.

It's the reverse of the annual Bledisloe Cup contests. There will be acres of talk about competing hard and having plans to upset the Aussies and that's the way New Zealand must approach the series.

However, when play is called late afternoon on Sunday to start the series at the SCG, do you challenge the bookies and back black or put a little hard-earned on the mustard soldiers?

New Zealand have an exciting group but lack the experience of the Aussies and the familiar kilometres they have covered, batting and bowling on their home tracks.

Both captains, Kane Williamson and Steve Smith, are high quality batsmen of determined principle who lead by example.

Martin Guptill and Tom Latham bring a right-left combo of growing maturity to stand up to one-day comparison with Aaron Finch and David Warner.

Without the injured Ross Taylor and Corey Anderson, the rest of the New Zealand batting line-up has an uncertain look, with Colin Munro, Henry Nicholls, Jimmy Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme being assessed to push up the order.

Will those batsmen adjust quickly against the different bounce and lengths Australia will serve up?

When it's New Zealand's turn to bowl, Tim Southee and Trent Boult know what they are about with the new cherry, and Matt Henry is getting there, while the selectors have punted on Lockie Ferguson's speed being useful.

As anyone who has toured Australia and watched their first-class cricket knows, batsmen devour any speedsters who miss their length and direction.

That's where Oz have an advantage with their pace barrage of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, James Faulkner and Pat Cummins, slippery and accurate.

They also have a stream of batsmen who can build, restore or up the tempo, with George Bailey, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Marsh, Travis Head and Matthew Wade.

If the teams pick a tweaker, they will likely be Mitchell Santner against Adam Zampa - left arm orthodox from the Kiwi against the attacking leg-spin from the Aussie - standard fare against another different strand of the game.

Field placings to attack or defend chases on different-sized grounds in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne will also be a novel factor for the Kiwis.

Before the start of the series, there'll be images of one of the Chappell brothers and Richard Hadlee grabbing a chunk of the trophy but you sense that will be the closest New Zealand get to claiming the pre-Christmas honours.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

Read more by Wynne Gray

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