Trent Boult was the joint highest wicket-taker in the Trans-Tasman Test series in November last year © Getty Images
New Zealand must win one of the two remaining ODIs against Pakistan to seal the series, but already there is hype developing for the tour to come. Australia – their neighbourhood rivals, and opponents in some of the most storied clashes of the past year – have picked their ODI squad, and arrive in the country in early February.
Pacer Trent Boult has said his focus remained on Pakistan, for now, but he had given thought to the clash against Australia, which he described as the “pinnacle of the season”. The teams play two Tests and three ODIs, the first of which begins February 3.
“The battles between the Aussies and us – it is very exciting,” Boult said. “We’ll focus on the next couple of games, but we’re all aware of what’s to come. That series is going to be very important. If I can keep ticking the right boxes and finding a bit of form leading into the Test matches, I think I’ll be pretty happy.”
Boult’s enthusiasm for that contest echoes that of a fast bowler from across the Tasman, who agreed the tour in New Zealand would be the highlight of Australia’s summer of cricket as well. Josh Hazlewood, who had matched Boult’s 13 wickets in the Trans-Tasman Test series at the beginning of the southern summer, has also spoken about the challenge that faces his team, playing in front of a “hostile” New Zealand crowd, against a team who are “tough to beat” in their home conditions.
Both teams have faced underwhelming opposition in their home seasons so far. West Indies and Sri Lanka were blown away by Australia and New Zealand respectively. Pakistan have now lost four of their five matches in New Zealand so far, while India were cleaned up 4-1 in ODIs by Australia.
“I can’t think of a better challenge to see where we are in terms of our Test game and our one-day game than to play Australia,” Boult said. “It’s definitely going to be very exciting from our end as well – to have them here in our home conditions. We’ve been putting some pretty good performances on board over the last week, and now the big test is to put it up against one of the best teams in the world.”
Despite eventually topping the wicket-takers’ list alongside Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc, Boult had battled injury during that Australia tour at the end of 2015. He was below his best during the Tests against Sri Lanka as well, but having now claimed 12 wickets in his six most-recent limited-overs matches, he feels he is increasing in confidence. Boult took 4 for 40 in the first ODI against Pakistan, helping clear out the opposition’s lower order.
“The Australia tour was a good learning curve for me,” he said. “To come back here – I haven’t played a heck of a lot of cricket to be honest. Each game was kind of getting better for me. I was definitely a lot happier with how it was yesterday. To get a few late wickets was very satisfying.”
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo