Two days before launching their series against New Zealand, Australia were not only comfortably beaten by South Africa but replaced at the top of the ODI rankings by the Proteas, and it hurts.
Facing New Zealand, though, is a different prospect. The Chappell-Hadlee Series will see Australia start as warm favourites based on the past meetings between the teams.
With the notable exception of a 3-0 series defeat in New Zealand in February 2007, Australia have had the wood over their rivals for as long as these countries have played limited overs internationals.
The most recent ODI clashes saw Australia win the December 2007 series 2-0, earning victories by seven wickets in Adelaide and 114 runs in Hobart.
This series is the second part of the New Zealanders’ tour which began with two tests in November, in which once again Australia were dominant. They won by 149 runs at the Gabba, restricting New Zealand to less than 180 in both innings, and had a convincing innings and 62 run margin in the second test at Adelaide.
In between times, New Zealand played out an even series with the West Indies, but are going into this first ODI on the back of a disappointing defeat to the Prime Minister’s XI in Canberra, where even a century from Brendon McCullum was not enough to help them to a defendable target.
McCullum is key to New Zealand’s chances, yet he may not keep wicket depending on how he has recovered from a training injury. Gareth Hopkins is in Perth in case McCullum can only bat, while Jesse Ryder’s injured left shoulder keeps him out of this first game. Jacob Oram is missing from the series, which further weakens the tourists.
New Zealand are a better one-day side than they are in tests, but their line-up looks a little inexperienced. The batting stocks in particular are not as strong as they would like and this is a tough situation for the likes of Trent Boult, Neil Broom and in particular the little-known Brendon Diamanti to be pitched into.
If McCullum is at all restricted in hip movement Australia will look to exploit his weakness, and in this side too much rests on the shoulders of the likes of Ross Taylor and Peter Fulton.
Australia have the advantage of having played against South Africa on Friday at the same ground, so they know the pitch and conditions and can look to rattle the New Zealanders who have sat idle for a while.
Look for Ricky Ponting to recover from his uncharacteristically nervy failure on Friday by taking the game to the New Zealanders. He has enjoyed success against them before, notably his two centuries in as many matches at the end of 2007, the 24th and 25th of his career to that point. It was notable that when New Zealand did whitewash Australia, Ponting was resting ahead of the World Cup.
It’s possible to make an argument that coming off the back of that game against South Africa on Friday, Australia are not in the best of spirits. But the wise money will be on them to start this series off in the right way, so they should be backed in match odds betting.