Steve Smith facing rare 'unknown' in opening Test against Kiwis

Australian batsman Steve Smith will be going into the unknown when he fronts up for the day-night Test against NZ at Optus Stadium, starting Thursday.

Smith missed the inaugural Test at Optus Stadium against India last year due to his ball tampering ban, and he'll be confronted by more variables than normal when he faces NZ.

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The combination of a Perth heat wave, potential huge cracks, and the unpredictable pink ball could present a big challenge for Smith.

His only previous appearance at the Perth venue was a one-day international clash with England in early 2018 when he made just 12 runs.

Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne of Australia joke during warm up on day three of the 1st Domain Test between Australia and Pakistan at The Gabba on November 23, 2019 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Jono Searle - CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

Smith is hungry to fire against the Kiwis following a lean run against Pakistan, and says he and his teammates will have to adapt on the run in tricky conditions.

"There is a sense of unknown, particularly with the pink ball as well," Smith said.

"Sometimes when the wicket's really hard it can soften that ball up.

"It can be 10, 15 overs (of hard work) at the start when the ball is new, but then good for batting for 50 or 60 overs.

"I think it will be about us just summing it up and seeing how it plays and adapting really quickly to whatever we need to do."

Smith isn't the only one going into the unknown.

Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith of Australia speak as they leave the field after victory during day four of the Second Test match in the series between Australia and Pakistan at Adelaide Oval on December 02, 2019 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The entire top five players from the Test team that beat India in Perth last year will be different.

Marcus Harris, Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh and Peter Handscomb have been replaced by Joe Burns, David Warner, Marcus Labuschagne, Smith and Matthew Wade.

Australia beat India by 146 runs in a match dominated by the bowlers last summer.

Temperatures ranging between 38-41 degrees have been forecast for the first four days of the Test against NZ.

Optus Stadium curator Brett Sipthorpe has been giving the pitch extra water in a bid to hold it together, but huge cracks are expected for the Test.

It's a challenge that Smith is embracing.

"When the cracks come into play, it's something that plays on your mind," Smith said.

"You look down and you see these things. Generally the balls that get you out don't touch the cracks, they're just sort of playing in your mind.

"A lot of the guys have played when the wickets have been cracked and been able to play reasonably well. If it does happen, hopefully we can adjust to it."

NZ are still sweating on the fitness of star paceman Trent Boult (side strain) and allrounder Colin de Grandhomme (abdominal tear).

Smith ready for challenge

The Kiwis haven't won a Test series in Australia since 1985, but Smith said the world No.2 team would represent a huge challenge.

"They kind of sneak under the radar every now and again," Smith said.

"They've got some quality players and they play well as a team, so we can't take them lightly by any stretch of the imagination.

"They've got some really good players. Kane Williamson their captain is a terrific batsman and one that we really have to be really focused on.

"Ross Taylor scored some big runs here last time and their bowling attack have been together for a while and have formed a good partnership together."