The thought that Test cricket needs a revamp has been passed around for a few years now, but the implementation was lacking. In that sense, the third Test between Australia and New Zealand at Adelaide beginning on Friday, will be a historic one. Irrespective of whether the move works wonders or fails, the experiment would be remembered as one that was a genuine effort at reviving the passion for Test cricket among fans. Players from both Australia and New Zealand should be lauded for agreeing to feature in the first day-night Test that will be played with a pink ball although not all are convinced with the idea.
Shifting focus to the on-field battle, the Kiwis will be under pressure to deliver. They are 0-1 down in the series and although they competed on an even scale with the Aussies at Perth, the visitors were far from pulling off a victory. They will need to display a lot of flair to unsettle the hosts in the Adelaide Test, and square the series. So far, New Zealand will be mighty pleased with the form of Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson. Taylor's 290 came after his massive struggle in the opening Test, and could serve as the confidence booster New Zealand needed. As for Williamson, he has been the most complete batsman for the Kiwis on this tour.
In a strange sense, in New Zealand's strengths also lie hidden their troubles. Taylor and Williamson have batted well, but they are the only ones to have made significant contributions with the bat in the series. Brendon McCullum has played one stellar innings, something expected of him, but as leader, greater and more impactul knocks are needed from him. The bigger problem is at the top of the order, with openers Martin Guptill and Tom Latham failing to deliver, and BJ Watling struggling down the order. Guptill got some runs in the practice game against the pink ball, which should give him some confidence. With the ball, they would want Tim Southee and Trent Boult to perform to perfection.
While Australia are sitting pretty with a 1-0 lead, they have a few issues of their own to ponder upon. The retirement of Mitchell Johnson midway through the series has definitely disturbed the balance of the side. All of a sudden the focus has come back on Peter Siddle, who had to be content playing second fiddle in the earlier two Tests. With his experience, Siddle is likely to be preferred over James Pattinson, who is quick, but hasn't developed the consistency to become the first choice in a starting eleven yet. Along with Siddle, Mitchell Starc and spinner Nathan Lyon will be the two key performers for Australia in the bowling department even as Josh Hazelwood is likely to continue being the back-up pacer.
Like their bowling, the hosts will be forced to make changes in their batting as well. With Usman Khawaja, who made a sensational comeback to Test cricket with back-to-back hundreds, being forced out due to injury, Shaun Marsh gets another chance to establish his place in the Test team. The move hasn't been welcomed by all, but if chosen, Marsh will at least have a chance to prove his critics wrong. David Warner is in exceptional form for the Aussies, and that can only be bad news for the visitors. Australia will be elated that newcomers like Joe Burns and Adam Voges are making their presence felt. It is proof of abundant talent in Australia's batting. Day night or not, pink ball or red, New Zealand have their task cut out.
-- By A Cricket Analyst