MELBOURNE – More than 20,000 New Zealand fans are expected to throng the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Thursday to watch their side play their first test at the iconic ground since 1987 when they face Australia in the second match of the three-game series.
Cricket Australia said last week more than 16,000 tickets had been sold to New Zealanders based in Australia, while airlines have put on extra flights to ferry the thousands of fans across the Tasman Sea for the fixture.
Such has been the interest, officials said they were projecting a crowd in excess of 78,000 on the opening day of the traditional Boxing Day fixture, the largest attendance at the ground for a non-Ashes test.
The significance of the clash lies not just in that Australia could clinch the series with a victory after winning the first match in Perth last week by 296 runs, according to former New Zealand wicketkeeper Ian Smith.
The match showed Australia now recognised their neighbours were worthy of playing high profile tests like the Boxing Day fixture in Melbourne and New Year's match in Sydney, which attract massive holiday crowds.