New Zealand begin their eagerly anticipated Test series against Australia in Perth on Thursday - read Richard Mann's preview here.
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The latest battle for the Trans-Tasman Trophy promises some excellent cricket and, crucially, a competitive series that pits two upwardly mobile Test outfits who will have genuine aspirations of challenging India for the inaugural ICC World Test Championship.
India have already stolen a march on their rivals with some typically dominant performances on home soil but Australia are a potent outfit nowadays, Tim Paine leading an outstanding bowling attack that retained the Ashes in England last summer before thumping Pakistan last month.
As ever, Australia remain a fearsome proposition in their own backyard and for all New Zealand will rightfully be optimistic of pushing their neighbours hard over the coming weeks, it is difficult to see them proving good enough to claim victory.
The three-Test series will certainly give Virat Kohli and his India side enough opportunity to weigh up both teams but England are probably best placed judge their respective merits having pushed Australia hard in the aforementioned Ashes before losing in New Zealand recently.
New Zealand once again highlighted England's impotency with the ball away from home when grinding their way to a 1-0 victory while it was Australia's bowlers, led by Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, who did the damage in the Ashes.
With the bat, Australia's over-reliance on Steve Smith is far less of an issue at home; 814 and 700 runs for David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne in the recent three-match series against Pakistan testament to that and suggesting New Zealand will have their work cut out taking wickets on Australia's traditionally flat pitches.
Compete hard they might, but it would surely be one of New Zealand's greatest ever achievements were they to claim series victory Down Under, their obviously tough task made even harder by doubts surrounding the fitness of bowling spearhead Trent Boult ahead of the first Test in Perth.
While the likes of Tim Southee, Neil Wagner and Lockie Ferguson should be able to plug the gap his possible absence would leave, the batting will have to be on its mettle coming up against the likes of Cummins, Hazlewood and a rejuvenated Mitchell Starc.
Tim Latham is in a real purple patch at present but his opening partner, Jeet Raval, less so while Kane Williamson is struggling with an ongoing hip niggle.
Williamson was still able to make an unbeaten century in the second and final Test of the series victory over England but he made the most of favourable conditions on that occasion, along with a remarkable drop from Joe Denly, and 21/10 for him to finish this series as the top New Zealand runscorer looks skinny enough.
Like Williamson, Taylor will have happy memories of his last tour of Australia having made an unforgettable double hundred (290) in the second Test at Perth and as ever, he and Williamson will be crucial to the Kiwis' chances in the coming weeks.
Australia won't underestimate their threat but they might BJ Watling, the rock of the New Zealand middle order and their top runscorer in the recent victory over England.
That was largely down to his magnificent 205 at the Bay Oval and just as he did on that occasion, he can be expected to prove New Zealand's man for a crisis should Australia's pace attack rattle the visitors' top order.
A 12/1 winner for this column against England, Watling could be well placed at number six to again fill his boots once the much-maligned Kookaburra ball has lost his early potency and I can't allow him to go unbacked.
Watling has made scores of 77, 105*, 205 and 55 in his last four Tests and with plenty of 25/1 available, he has to be a bet for top New Zealand series runscorer once again.
Kiwi paceman Wagner rewarded followers of this column in that same series with England but there is no 7/1 on offer this time around so I'll look elsewhere for a second play with Starc standing out like a beacon.
Regular readers will know I rate Cummins as the finest fast bowler Australia has produced since Glenn McGrath but 15/8 for him to finish the series as top Australia bowler is short enough with the 11/4 available for Starc just too tempting to ignore.
Cummins was my headline bet in the Ashes and bowled magnificently to oblige but much of the theory behind that bet was the fact that Australia would be desperate for him to play in all five Tests of the series while his fast bowling counterparts were to be rotated.
Starc's poor previous performances in England clearly counted against him as he was limited to only one appearance, but back on home shores, on the fast and bouncy pitches he excels on, he has thrived, and his 14 wickets in the recent defeat of Pakistan saw him right back to his best.
Sometimes expensive and ineffective against the Pakistan top order, Starc's ability to keep picking up wickets ensured he finished the series as the leading wicket-taker on either side and he should continue to be a huge strike weapon for Paine this winter.
While Starc has come in for plenty of criticism in the past for his tendency to leak runs, particularly up front, there is no doubting that he is one of the best bowlers to tailenders there is.
Starc's knack of taking lower order wickets with his raw pace and pinpoint yorkers continues to make him a hugely valuable commodity that Australia have been unable to ignore and having forced his way back into the Test side, he looks there to stay.
Expect Cummins and Hazlewood to enjoy fruitful series once more but the likelihood of Starc filling his boots against the lower order and bookmakers dangling a serious carrot with quotes of 11/4 make it an easy decision to support the latter.
Posted at 1330 GMT on 10/12/19.
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