Australia and New Zealand are neighbours and arch rivals in sport. So when you think it has been 32 years since the two have been involved in the Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, you realise it is one of the most unique statistics in the game.
Australia’s trans-Tasman rivals’ last appearance at the age-old tradition of a Test starting on December 26 in Melbourne was in 1987.
And sample this stat: only four of the current team’s starters — Neil Wagner, Ross Taylor, BJ Watling and Colin de Grandhomme — were even born at that time.
The importance of the occasion is not lost on fast bowler Tim Southee, as he and his teammates walk out in front of a packed MCG on Thursday.
“A lot of great cricketers from New Zealand haven’t had the chance to do it so it’s something special,” Southee was quoted as saying by Associated Press. “I’m sure everyone grew up watching the Boxing Day Test. The crowds and the history behind it and New Zealand not having had one for 30-odd years, it’s something a little bit different.”
New Zealand suffered a 296-run loss to Australia in the day-night Test in Perth and have lost patience with struggling opener Jeet Raval. He’s been replaced at the top of the order by reserve wicketkeeper Tom Blundell.
“He’s been around the side for a while and he seems to have taken every chance he’s had,” Southee said.
New Zealand, in fact, made two changes on Wednesday for the Boxing Day Test against Australia with fast bowler Trent Boult back from injury. The dangerous Boult missed the first Test in Perth with a rib injury that also kept him out of their final clash against England. But he has worked his way back to fitness.
“Not only our partnership, but ‘Wags’ (Neil Wagner) as well, the three of us have played a lot of cricket together,” Southee said. “We’ve had a lot of success together so it’s nice to have Trent back.”
The teams will play a Third test in Sydney, beginning on January 3.