Ye gods, the news keeps getting worse.
While New Zealand will field their first choices during the three games, Australia have left their captain and vice-captain at home and Andrew Symonds is recovering from a serious arm injury.
Adding to the visitors’ lack of power is a Brett Lee ankle injury and a hip problem to Michael Clarke, who is second-in-charge after Ricky Ponting decided to have treatment on his back and Adam Gilchrist rested. The changes mean Australia have picked a raw squad, including Adam Voges, Cameron White, Brad Haddin and the on-standby Phil Jaques, and the competition that has been wedged into a crammed itinerary has become an inconvenience, even though they were upended in the CB Series finals.
If Clarke is ruled out, Matthew Hayden will be the only one of Australia’s top four who is batting in his usual position while Brad Hodge, the No. 5, is keeping Symonds’ spot warm. The third-year series that the organisers pipe-dreamed would develop into an All Blacks-Wallabies rivalry is achieving the credibility of a pre-season warm-up.
Well, rivalries take some time to develop. And this particular chapter of the Chappell-Hadlee trophy is suffering because it is caught in a wedge right before the World Cup. There wasn’t time to hold it earlier in the summer though. I like the concept of the annual series though, and given ten years it will be a highlight of the summer.
The injury to Lee gives Mitchell Johnson a chance to strut his stuff as a key strike bowler. When fit, Lee, Bracken and McGrath are just about certain starters, and there is a lot of competition for the fourth bowling slot. Johnson has a chance to take it.
Meanwhile New Zealand have the chance to win back the trophy against an unbalanced Australia which is collectively as out of form and low on confidence as any Australian side has been in limited overs cricket, at least in the last decade or so. I’m looking forward to watching three very keenly contested matches.