Ki­wis play­ing un­der­dog

NZ wary of in-form Aus­tralians

Mercury (Hobart) - - SPORT -

NEW Zealand may be rid­ing high and ranked three places above Aus­tralia in Test cricket but it’s adopt­ing a de­fi­ant lit­tle brother ap­proach to re­claim­ing the Trans-Tas­man tro­phy.

The Black Caps have moulded ar­guably their finestever Test team but refuse to talk up their chances of knock­ing over Tim Paine’s men on Aus­tralian soil in the loom­ing three-match se­ries.

Coach Gary Stead has saluted the qual­ity of the re­vi­talised home side. He’s warned his team to ig­nore its ICC rank­ing of sec­ond, which was fur­ther ce­mented by a home se­ries win over Eng­land.

An ir­re­sistible force at home, New Zealand has found life tougher on the other side of the Tas­man Sea, where its lone se­ries win came in 1985-86.

Stead will bring his play­ers back to earth be­fore they de­part for Perth on Satur­day, five days out from the first Test un­der lights at Op­tus Sta­dium. “We’re un­der no il­lu­sion that Aus­tralia are play­ing re­ally good cricket at the mo­ment. They ap­pear to be some­where back to their best,” he said. “Our chal­lenge will be to stand up to make sure we’re in that fight for long pe­ri­ods.

“We ask it of our play­ers all the time but we need to be some­where near our best.”

What is pre­dicted to be a bouncy Perth pitch rep­re­sents ar­guably New Zealand’s most dif­fi­cult as­sign­ment, par­tic­u­larly if in­jured stars Trent Boult and/or Colin de Grand­homme haven’t re­cov­ered.

The vis­i­tors’ prospects should im­prove in more Ki­wi­like con­di­tions at the MCG and SCG af­ter Christ­mas.

“I think one of the things that makes me re­ally proud, that I’ve seen in the last 14 to 15 months with the Black Caps is their abil­ity to adapt,” Stead said. “If you look at some of the chal­lenges … win­ning against Pak­istan (in the UAE), World Cups (reach­ing suc­ces­sive fi­nals) … I guess the team’s found a way to adapt to what’s in front of them.”

DANIEL GIL­HOOLY

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