Summer of Cricket Looking Hot for Kiwi Fans

For quite possibly the first time in my life, I can say with confidence that it is a great time to be a New Zealand cricket fan.

On the back of hit and miss tours to England, Zimbabwe and South Africa the summer of cricket ahead brings great promise to the previously frustrating hobby that is supporting the Blackcaps.

From November we are set to hit the shores of Australia for a three test series with what I believe to be the highest quality outfit New Zealand has put on the paddock in our 85 year international history.

Undoubtedly the Aussies will be hard to beat at home – they always are, but this tour presents a great opportunity to add to our three previous test victories across the ditch.

There are six, possibly seven likely starters from the famous 2011 Hobart victory, all of who are probably better players now than in 2011.

In Brendon McCullum New Zealand have a leader that plays with an Australian mindset, aggressive and attacking, but in the spirit that an 19thcentury Marylebone Cricket Club XI would be proud of. He also finally seems to be comfortable with his test game, which four big hundreds in 2014 attest to.

Boult and Southee have since combined for 223 test wickets at an average of 27 and are arguably the best opening pair going around at the moment. In Doug Bracewell, Neil Wagner, Adam Milne, Matt Henry and Ben Wheeler there is plenty of firepower to supplement the swing twins early barrage.

Kane Williamson has developed from an emerging talent to a world class batsman, and Ross Taylor has churned out hundreds – 17 international tons to be precise since Doug Bracewell pinged the cherry into Nathan Lyon’s middle stump to secure the ‘caps first victory over Australia since 1993.

Guptill has worked hard at his game and deserves to be back in there as opening bat. Supplementing this experienced core will likely be Tom Latham, Mark Craig, Corey Anderson, Jimmy Neesham and BJ Watling, all of whom have tasted recent success in tests.

It should be a cracker of a series and the Aussies are vulnerable with a number of senior players retiring after The Ashes.

But beware a wounded Aussie, they always back themselves at home, have a good pace line up and the Kiwis will have to be on top of their game to be able to call the Aussie tour a success.

Back in NZ we have the perennial visitors Sri Lanka and Pakistan on our shores for a series of limited over, and in Sri Lanka’s case, test matches. I expect us to be too strong for the rebuilding Sri Lanka in our own conditions. Anything short of Test and ODI series victories here would be disappointing.

I also expect us to get the better of Pakistan, although it will be interesting to see how we deal with Wahab Riaz if he offers the same level of heat that he did in the World Cup – although Mitchell Johnson should give us plenty of practice at the Gabba.

Then the Aussies are back, this time for a 3 ODI – 2 Test series in our own backyard. This should be another closely fought series, with the Chappell-Hadlee series up for grabs in the one dayers.

It is great to see test cricket back in Christchurch. Hagley Oval is a picturesque ground well suited to the longer form and I expect the Cantabrians will provide some of our best test crowds in recent memory.

This action packed summer of cricket is all wrapped up by the end of February in time for the Twenty20 World Cup in India from mid-March. All going well we can run deep into that competition, and in the shortest format anything can happen on the day.

The summer should be a pearler. We have batsmen that can score big hundreds, a bowling attack that can run through quality batsmen, and a country riding a wave of momentum generated from last summer’s world cup heroics. I couldn’t be more excited.

By Michael Aitken

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