Australia's batsmen must overcome a juicy-looking green-top made to order for New Zealand's high-class swingmen, in their toughest test since their Ashes defeat.
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Shane Warne rips into 'selfish' Steve Waugh
Shane Warne has a candid conversation in the jungle about his dislike for former Australian cricket captain Steve Waugh. Vision: Channel Ten
Black Caps coach Mike Hesson said in December he wanted to see fast and bouncy green pitches at home, and it appears that is what he will get.
Ground staff at the Basin Reserve on Wednesday could not have tried harder to ensure Hesson's wish is granted for the first Test, starting Friday.
An already lush centre square was given a generous sprinkle before the covers were applied to shield the surface from the afternoon sun.
How it will play exactly is anyone's guess, but recent history suggests the captain who calls correctly on the first morning will have no hesitation sending the opposition in.
No team has chosen to bat first there in five years, and in the past two Tests at the ground a total of 27 wickets have fallen on the first day.
The pitch then flattens out to become a haven for batsmen, as seen in Kumar Sangakkara and Kane Williamson's double centuries on days two to four last year, and Brendon McCullum's triple ton in the second innings in 2014.
The move could yet backfire spectacularly for the Kiwis if they lose the toss, because Steve Smith has the attack to capitalise on any assistance. But Australia's top six, with the exception of the captain and David Warner, are unproven on anything other than flat tracks. All will be playing their first Test on New Zealand soil this week.
The Australians do not believe the pitch is as nasty as it looks. If there was as much grass coverage on a pitch at home, alarm bells would be ringing for the batsmen, but there is a feeling the type of grass used in New Zealand will not offer as much lateral movement.
"Looking at the wicket here, it looks nice and green, but that's irrelevant," Warner said. "I don't think the ball will do much off the wicket.
"It will swing around a lot, and obviously with two world-class swing bowlers in the attack it's going to be a challenge for us guys at the top of the order."
Australia's batsmen were still coming to grips with the sideways movement at training, where the sight of players nicking off was not uncommon.
The expectation is the Kookaburra ball will swing for longer here than in Australia, but not for hours on end like the Dukes ball used in England.
It took Australia until the final Test of the Ashes to adapt to the seam-friendly conditions. On that occasion Warner reined in his game, taking until the 15th over to hit his first boundary. It would not surprise to see him as uncharacteristically circumspect again.
"If you look at that last Test, there wasn't many balls in our half that we could swing at – they were a fraction back of a good length," Warner said. "You couldn't really do anything. You had to leave or try and defend, and that was the hardest thing.
"You have to really just try and see that session out, and then try and reap the rewards in the afternoon. That's what the art of Test cricket is about – you can't just come out and blast it out of the park."
Australian batsmen like to fight fire with fire, in a bid to unsettle the Black Caps attack, but there will be times when survival is the only goal.
"You do get good balls and that's one thing you have to try and adapt [to]," Warner said. "You have to try and not nick it or not miss it – that's quite challenging for a top-order player in these kind of conditions. The big word for us is to try and adapt straight away to that."
The Black Caps attack did not hit their straps until the final Test in the last trans-Tasman series, but star swingman Tim Southee believes they will not take so long on home turf.
"It showed in the back end of that series, we didn't ask some questions, and when we get it right we can be dangerous in any conditions," he said. "Just shows if you're a little bit off, sides can capitalise on that.
"Coming back to conditions that we are familiar with and [where] we've had a lot of success, it is a nice feeling."
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