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New Zealand v Australia Test series preview: Aussies at full strength

Australia's tour of New Zealand continues with a two-match Test series, with morale in the Baggy Greens camp high after a 3-0 sweep of the T20I clashes between the two teams.

The Aussies won all three 20-over matches by healthy margins, so they should be full of confidence ahead of the five-day match-up in Wellington and then Christchurch.

The opening Test gets underway at Basin Reserve on the final day of February and there is only a four-day turnaround before the second match take place at the Hagley Oval.

Aussies at full strength

Australia have the luxury of a full-fit squad to choose from, with Steve Smith set to continue at the top of the batting order alongside Usman Khawaja.

All-rounder Cameron Green returns after being rested for the white-ball action and is expected to bat at four, while the all-star bowling line-up of skipper Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon are all ready and raring to go.

Marnus Labuschagne, Travis Head and Mitchell Marsh complete the top six, with wicketkeeper-batter Alex Carey also a certain selection, leaving Matt Renshaw as the reserve batter.

Back-up seam options are provided by Michael Neser and Scott Boland, meaning that Australia are blessed with a wealth of experienced performers to look to.

Smith will no doubt be relishing a return to New Zealand, having passed 50 in each of his previous three Test innings against the Black Caps in their own back yard, while his career Test average against the Kiwis stands at 58.23.

Of the bowlers, only Hazlewood and Lyon have played Test cricket on New Zealand soil before, with the off-spinner Lyon taking ten wickets at 22.60 in the 2016 series.

His career average against the Black Caps stands at 205.2, with Lyon having taken exactly 50 wickets across ten Tests against their cross-Tasman rivals.

Hosts have concerns over key batters

The Black Caps have a number of injuries which they hope will clear up before the first Test begins in

Opening batter Devon Conway missed the final T20I due to a thumb injury and is still an uncertain starter, while fellow left-hander Rachin Ravindra is managing a slight niggle in his left knee.

Will Young stands by to deputise if either of that pair are forced to miss out, while coach Gary Stead is confident that another batter, Daryl Mitchell (foot), as well as seamer Matt Henry (hip), will be fit to feature.

A major boost comes with the news that star batter Kane Williamson will be available for the Test action following the recent birth of his third child.

Williamson goes into the clashes with the Aussies on the back of three centuries in four innings against South Africa, with the world-class right-hander averaging a massive 69.70 in 47 previous Tests he has played on home soil.

With the ball, of course there is now no Trent Boult, with Tim Southee, Henry and Neil Wagner backed up by William O’Rourke, who recently enjoyed a near-perfect Test debut as he took match figures of 9-93 in the seven-wicket win against the Proteas in Hamilton.

Recent record firmly in Baggy Greens' favour

Rather remarkably, these two teams have only faced each other in Test matches in New Zealand 26 times, with Australia winning 14, losing five and seven matches ending in draws.

The tourists have an unblemished record in New Zealand in the 21st century, winning nine times and drawing once, so they can certainly take plenty of heart from those most recent results.

The last series in New Zealand was also a two-Test meeting - the games again played in Wellington and Christchurch - with Australia winning by an inning and 52 runs at Basin Reserve and then triumphing by seven wickets at the Hagley Oval.

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