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Australia v New Zealand Test series: Steve Smith, Kane Williamson carrying hopes of two nations in Trans Tasman Test series

As Brendon McCullum plans a repeat of Australia's Ashes nightmare, two of the world's best batsmen - Steve Smith and Kane Williamson - enter the Trans Tasman Test series aware the fate of their side could well hinge on their performances.

As the last of his teammates left Basin Reserve on Thursday, Smith was still in the nets taking throwdowns with Australia's batting coach. The first to arrive, last to leave. It was almost a repeat of the scenes hour earlier with Kane Williamson.

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We want to be No 1 in all formats: Smith

Australian captain speaks to the media ahead of the first Test against New Zealand in Wellington.

In a series expected to be dominated by the ball, the pair, both well on the track to greatness so early in their careers, are the linchpins in inexperienced batting line-ups.

Australia's greenness almost matches that of the Wellington pitch - Smith cannot recall seeing one greener - while there are also major pressure points in the Black Caps' top six.

If the runs do not come from Williamson, or McCullum, then where? Ross Taylor, New Zealand's fifth leading run-scorer, is injured, replaced by Henry Nicholls batting at No.4 on debut. Martin Guptill is not a bank against the red ball while No.6 Corey Anderson is unproven at Test level.

"He's a massive player for us. He's been at the epicentre of the turnaround of the team," McCullum said of Williamson.


"Since he's developed as a world class player we've banked a lot of runs which has given our bowlers a lot of time to bowl teams out."

Williamson was almost bullet proof in Australia until the locals realised it was so hard to get him out they devised plans for him to get himself out.

By bowling wide of off stump, the Australians starved him of runs off his pads, enticing him to drive instead.

They widened their line further in the one-dayers but Williamson has greater freedom to choose what he needs to hit in the longer format.

When Sachin Tendulkar made his famous 241 not out at the SCG in 2004, he shelved his cover drive as it had brought his downfall too often. The conditions here are likely to make it harder for such a drastic alteration by Williamson but he is too smart not to change.

"World class players make adjustments," McCullum, on the eve of his 100th Test, said.

"Australia bowled very well to him in the one-dayers on different surfaces to these Tests. He'll make the adjustment, he's such a good player, just as [David] Warner and Smith will adjust after reasonably lean series as well."

"Adapt" has been Smith's keyword since he assumed the captaincy after Australia's Ashes failure. In his final training session, he practised what he preached. Under the watch of batting coach Michael Di Venuto, Smith willed himself to play every ball under his eyes, making sure he did not reach too far in front of his body.

He will need to. McCullum has indicated he will take a leaf out of England's play book.

​"The way they played in those seamer friendly conditions is certainly something we can look at," McCullum said.

"We've got a very good bowling lineup who will swing the ball and if the conditions do favour us I'm confident we'll ask some tough questions."

Australia's answer in the past has been to "play your natural game" but there are signs Smith is demanding more thoughtful replies.

"If someone is bowling well, whether it be on a flat wicket or a wicket that's doing a bit, you have to adapt to what's going on out there and rein it back in and wait for those loose balls," Smith said.

"That's what Test cricket is all about. Batting time is key, and hopefully some of our batters can bat some long periods out here and get us some big scores like we had back home in the summer."


Australia: David Warner, Joe Burns, Usman Khwaja, Steve Smith, Adam Voges, Mitchell Marsh, Peter Nevill, Peter Siddle, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon, Jackson Bird

New Zealand: Martin Guptill, Tom Latham, Kane Williamson, Henry Nicholls, Brendon McCullum, Corey Anderson, Luke Ronchi, Mark Craig, Doug Bracewell, Tim Southee, Trent Boult


Heavily tinged with green, the deck should offer plenty of assistance on the first day for the quicks before flattening and becoming more of a batsman's wicket.


Friday: fine 25

Saturday: fine 24

Sunday: fine 24

Monday: fine 24

Tuesday: partly cloudy 20

TV: Fox Sports, live, play starts 8.30 am (AEDT)

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