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Australia v New Zealand: Jason Gillespie and James Franklin preview series

Australia lift the Trans Tasman Trophy in 2011
Image: Australia retained the Trans Tasman Trophy in 2011

There'll be no holds barred as Australia and New Zealand do battle for the Trans Tasman Trophy.

Ahead of the first Test, live on Sky Sports 1 from midnight on Wednesday, we asked Jason Gillespie and James Franklin for their verdict on the series.

In PART ONE of our feature, the pair compare how each side is shaping up and assess the potency of each attack…

Just how fired up will the players be for this series?

James Franklin: New Zealand are well and truly up for this contest. They won the last Test between the sides in Australia; that seven-run victory in Hobart was the first time New Zealand had won a Test on Australian shores in 26 years. A few guys in this squad, including Brendon McCullum, Trent Boult and Tim Southee, have memories of that Test and will use it to drive everyone on.

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Doug Bracewell's bowled the Black Caps to their first victory on Australian soil for 26 years in 2011

Jason Gillespie: There's a healthy rivalry between Australia and New Zealand. The New Zealand boys will cop a bit of stick from the Aussie crowd but that's par for the course. There's a lot of respect from Australian people and fans for New Zealand sportspeople and the cricket team is no different.

How are both teams shaping up?

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JF: New Zealand as a team have moved forward well in the last couple of years and their form in Test cricket, in particular, has been pretty solid; it's a settled Test squad and those players will be going into this series with some good optimism and form to back that up.

Australian batsman Joe Burns
Image: Batsman Joe Burns - included in Australia's squad along with Usman Khawaja

JG: There's been plenty of talk about this being the first Test since Michael Clarke and Chris Rogers retired, but there are a lot of good, young players in Australian cricket right now. A lot of names have been bandied around in the last few weeks about who will play in the first Test but now the selectors have settled on a squad and I like the balance of it.

What aspect of the series are you really looking forward to?

JG: I'm very excited about the battle of the bowling attacks - particularly the fast bowlers. It's going to be exciting to watch. In Boult, Johnson and Starc we'll see three of the best left-armers in world cricket; they all bowl at a good pace and move the ball off the straight. Johnson is more aggressive with the short ball than Boult and Starc, who look to bowl full.

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The Verdict panel analyse Australia left-armer Mitchell Starc, after he took 6-111 in the fourth Test at Trent Bridge

I understand why there are those who question how effective Starc and Johnson are in tandem; how Steve Smith uses them is key because they are both attacking bowlers. He needs to have an element of control at the other end. That's why I think the other members of Australia's pace attack are key. Australia saw Josh Hazlewood as the disciplined line and length bowler in the UK but although he did okay, he probably didn't quite fulfil what the selectors were after in that type of role.

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With New Zealand recently climbing to third in the Test rankings, Michael Holding attended their training session on Tuesday to meet two of the players

JF: Boult and Southee have been outstanding in recent series; they've been world leaders in terms of an opening combination. Most top-order batsmen around the world will fear that pairing coming at them so the key is the back-up bowlers and it will be interesting to see if the selectors go for Doug Bracewell or Matt Henry, who has been a solid performer in and around domestic cricket. Henry's taken his opportunities in one-day cricket, where he has been outstanding in his limited appearances.

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Bracewell had a great start to his international career, too; he's come back stronger after a lull of around 18 months. With Corey Anderson not being fit for this tour, Jimmy Neesham's input as the all-rounder bowling 10-12 overs in an innings will be vital.

Watch the first Test between Australia and New Zealand from midnight, Wednesday, Sky Sports 2.

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