Daniel Vettori will look skywards and pray the coin tumbles his way on Thursday as New Zealand eye a rare chance to place Australia under pressure in the first cricket test.

The toss looms as vital on a Gabba surface which has been under cover after several days of rain and will provide some seam movement, if the weather allows a start on time at 1pm (NZT).

As the sun fought its way through the cloud after another night of torrential downpours, Vettori admitted the onus was on him to call correctly to give his side a chance of belying their status as $A9.50 outsiders.

“I’m hoping we can compete no matter what the conditions, but with the rain that’s been around and the nature of the Gabba wicket, if you can win the toss and bowl, make some inroads it can make a huge difference to your fortunes,” Vettori said.

Australian captain Ricky Ponting admitted he was surprised at how well the pitch had emerged on Wednesday, and that while it would offer bounce and early movement it may not be as bowler-friendly as predicted. More rain is forecast.

Still, New Zealand delayed the naming of their side with allrounder Grant Elliott emerging as a frontrunner to play his third test and bat No 7, although the prospect of four pacemen wasn’t ruled out.

Vettori admitted Elliott had forced his way past batsman Peter Fulton as they look to strengthen the batting in the injured Jacob Oram’s absence, meaning Vettori would come in at eight and Kyle Mills at No 9.

“We talked long and hard about the balance of the side, whether to bring Grant Elliott in as No 7, and if so, which seamer to leave out,” Vettori said.

“We’re looking at him as a batsman, we’re trying not to bring into play the fact that he bowls a little bit, because we want the best batsman in that position.

“The guy that comes into the side will bat at No 7 so Grant’s probably more accustomed to that than Peter would be.”

Elliott scored six and four, and took one for 85 off 24 overs on test debut against England in Napier in March, then played a minor role in last month’s rain-marred second test in Bangladesh.

While the pace attack of Chris Martin, Kyle Mills, Iain O’Brien and possibly Tim Southee should acquit itself well, the batting still has big question marks after the six-wicket defeat to New South Wales.

Openers Jamie How and Aaron Redmond, Jesse Ryder, Ross Taylor and Daniel Flynn are all playing their first tests against Australia, with the in-form How the most experienced with 14 tests.

“It’s something we’ve been crying out for, for a long time, trying to get our top-six past that 300 mark and unless you do that you really have no chance against the Australian side,” Vettori said.

“We’re asking a lot from an inexperienced group of guys but they definitely have the talent to do it.”

Ryder and Taylor are capable of tearing apart any attack, but their respective temperaments in the pivotal spots will get a stern test. Taylor showed his class with a magnificent unbeaten 154 against England at Old Trafford in June and it will take something of that ilk here from one of the batsmen.

Ponting narrowed his side down to 12 on Wednesday, with paceman Peter Siddle omitted, leaving allrounder Shane Watson and spinner Jason Krejza to compete for the final spot.

It meant a recall for big allrounder Andrew Symonds who missed the 0-2 series defeat in India for disciplinary reasons after his “gone fishing” drama.

After the pressures of India, when his captaincy was questioned and his team outplayed, Ponting was in a chirpy mood today as he eyed a return to home conditions.

“I’d expect us to win the series, whether that’s 2-0 or 1-0 or whatever. I’ve got a lot of confidence in this group,” he said.