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New Zealand v Australia T20I series preview: Stoinis a key absentee

Australia play their final 20-over international series before the T20 World Cup when they take on New Zealand, with the action taking place in Wellington and then Auckland.

The three matches will see some final tweaking taking place by both sides as they ramp up preparations for the global event which starts in June, but both squads have some major names missing due to a number of different factors.

Australia head into the series on the back of a 2-1 home success against the West Indies, while the Black Caps thumped visiting Pakistan 4-1 as recently as January of this year.

WhatNew Zealand v Australia, T20I series
WhereWellington & Auckland
WhenWednesday 21st February - Sunday 25th February
How to watchKayo, Foxtel
Odds (series)New Zealand 2.50, Australia 1.53

Stoinis absence a big miss

All-rounder Marcus Stoinis is an absentee for the cross-Tasman clashes due to a back injury which kept him out of the final T20I against the West Indies.

Aaron Hardie is earmarked to take the place of Stoinis, who played a key role with the ball in the series success over the Windies before being struck down by the latest of a long list of injury problems.

Matt Short is hoping to figure by overcoming a hamstring problem which forced him to miss the 20-over matches against the men for the Caribbean, while the squad has a much more familiar line-up with the returns of a number of experienced stars.

Steven Smith and Travis Head are back to reinforce the batting order, while Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc return to give the Aussies their first-choice pace attack.

Matthew Wade is also included but will miss the series opener in Wellington on Wednesday, while all-rounder Cameron Green has been left out of the squad but could force his way into the World Cup reckoning with a strong showing in the upcoming IPL season.

Key batters missing for hosts

While Australia are able to recall a wealth of experience to their squad, hosts New Zealand have several key performers absent for the visit of their closest rivals.

Skipper Kane Williamson misses out due to paternity leave, while all-rounder Daryl Mitchell is an absentee as he continues his recovery from a foot injury, with spinning all-rounder Mitchell Santner handed the captaincy.

Jimmy Neesham and Michael Bracewell are also unavailable, while veteran seamer Tim Southee will play only the first match of the series, before long-time pace partner Trent Boult takes his place for matches two and three.

Left-arm ace Boult has not played T20I cricket since the 2022 World Cup and will be eager to ensure that he features at the same event this time around, having taken 74 wickets at an average of 22.25 in 55 T20I appearances to date.

Attention will also be focused on big-hitting all-rounder Josh Clarkson, who has been the fastest-scoring established batter in the Super Smash over recent seasons.

The 27-year-old, who has a career strike-rate in T20 cricket of 148, has played in three ODIs for the Black Caps but has yet to feature on the T20I stage.

New Zealand have also lost the services of Matt Henry and Tim Seifert, with Ben Sears and Will Young called up as replacements.

Australia have the upper hand

These two teams have played 16 completed T20 internationals, the most notable of which was the T20 World Cup final in 2021, which the Baggy Greens won by a resounding eight-wicket margin in Dubai.

No fewer than 10 of those 16 previous mattings have taken place in New Zealand, with Australia winning six and the home side three, while the teams played out a tie in Christchurch back in 2010.

The most recent series in New Zealand was played out in February and March of 2021, when the hosts won the first two clashes before the Aussies roared back to level the series at 2-2.

The fifth and decisive meeting took place in Wellington and it was the Black Caps who came out on top, winning by seven wickets with four and a half overs to spare.

New Zealand are 2.30 to win the series opener in Wellington this time around, with an Australia victory priced at 1.61.

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