Right Time For New Zealand

Australia have lost the No. 1 ranking in one-day internationals on Friday night in Perth but have no time to mope about their summer of demotion. The crammed itinerary says that two days after finishing a five-game series against South Africa they must start another against New Zealand.

Daniel Vettori's team could not find a more opportune moment to arrive at their neighbour's but they are also the only ones Australia have been able to beat comfortably since going to India, so there should be some relief on the way for the Aussies.

In two Tests in November Australia outplayed their rivals, but the gap usually narrows for 50-over contests. Officially Australia are now No. 2 - a win on Sunday in the first one-dayer at the WACA in Perth will push them back to first - while New Zealand are fourth, but guessing where the hosts really fit is as tricky as working out why the local middle order has been so unproductive at crucial times. The 4-1 defeat is so unfamiliar at home and Ricky Ponting's men are determined to hit back quickly.

While there remains no better time for New Zealand to challenge Australia, their team is also undergoing a serious redevelopment under their new coach Andy Moles.

Aussie paceman Shaun Tait should come back after being rested and could be a handful for the visiting batsmen, who won't have much chance to adjust to the conditions. Tait experienced some cramps in Adelaide but is not suffering from the hamstring problems that have hampered him at times during the season. Michael Clarke failed on his return from a thumb injury, but the middle looks much stronger with the vice-captain in it.

Brendon McCullum's hip is the big worry for the visitors, even though it won't keep him out of the match. McCullum, who scored a century in Canberra on Thursday, was unable to take the gloves in that game, but Vettori is confident. "I'm not allowing him any other option," Vettori told NZPA. "We need him to keep to provide us with as many options as possible." Gareth Hopkins, the back-up gloveman, is on standby and New Zealand need a replacement for Jesse Ryder, who is out for a week with a shoulder problem. Kyle Mills will probably bat at No. 7 and Vettori has spoken of playing two spinners for today's match.


AUSTRALIA Shaun Marsh, David Warner, Ricky Ponting (capt), Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey, David Hussey, Brad Haddin, James Hopes, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Bracken, Shaun Tait.

NEW ZEALAND Brendon McCullum, Martin Guptill, Peter Fulton, Ross Taylor, Neil Broom, Grant Elliott, Kyle Mills, Tim Southee, Daniel Vettori (capt), Jeetan Patel, Iain O'Brien.


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