MELBOURNE — It's been a long time between Boxing Day tests for Australia's closest cricketing neighbor.
New Zealand's last appearance on Dec. 26 in Melbourne was in 1987. So long ago, in fact, that only four of the current starters — Neil Wagner, Ross Taylor, B.J. Watling and Colin d e Grandhomme — were born.
Fast bowler Tim Southee says the importance of the occasion is not lost on anyone involved in the squad. A crowd of up to 75,000 is expected for day one of the second test, beginning Thursday at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
"A lot of great cricketers from New Zealand haven't had the chance to do it so it's something special," Southee said. "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."
After New Zealand's 296-run loss to Australia in the day-night test in Perth, New Zealand has lost patience with struggling opener Jeet Raval. He's been replaced at the top of the order by reserve wicketkeeper Tom Blundell, who played the last of his two tests in December 2017 and batted at No. 8.