The second test of the Australia v New Zealand series starts in a few hours. The Aussies are heavy favourites after a convincing win at the Gabba and I don’t see the Kiwis putting up much more of a fight. Although the wicket in Hobart should be more akin to what the Kiwis are used and I think they probably will bat better, to challenge even a weakened Australia they will have to improve almost beyond recognition. They will also have to field far better than they did in the first test, and I doubt they will have had enough time to improve noticeably.
Theoretically the Australians have a strong home field advantage in Hobart having never lost a test there, but there are some considerable caveats to that statistic. The matches there tend to be against weaker sides; in addition to New Zealand only Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the West Indies (in 2005) have played in Tasmania. Also, the Bellerive Oval only started hosting matches in 1989, so most of the previous nine matches were during Australia’s period of dominance. New Zealand’s bowling coach is very familiar with the ground having played in Tasmania for ten years during his first class career, so I don’t think the Aussies will actually have a marked home field advantage. That said, I don’t think they will need any home field advantage to overcome New Zealand.
The most interesting part of the test will probably be the selection battles ahead of the series against India. Two batsmen are going to be dropped when Watson and Marsh return and all of them bar Clarke are candidates to make way. The obvious direct competitions are Warner v Hughes to see who will survive the return of Watson and Khawaja v Ponting v Hussey to see who will make way for Marsh. But since Watson can, and many argue should, bat down the order it will probably not be so straight forward. Right now Hughes and Hussey are probably under the most pressure and will need centuries to ensure they retain their place on Boxing Day. Hughes has a good record in first class matches in Hobart, but the conditions are expected to favour swing and seam and I think he will find the going very difficult.
As far as the result of the match is concerned I’m predicting another heavy victory for Australia, by 250 runs or eight wickets.