New Zealand v Australia, 2nd Test, Christchurch February 19, 2016

Australia's test of nerve, McCullum's last hurrah


Match facts

February 20-24, 2016
Start time 10.30 local (21.30 GMT)

Play 05:58
'New Zealand need to put external pressures behind them'

Big Picture

Australia need only a draw to become the world's No. 1 Test team. Easier said than done, for a few reasons. First, it has been an awful long time since Australia have been consistent away from home. Australia won consecutive Tests in the Caribbean against the woeful West Indies in early 2015, but the previous time they managed that was in New Zealand as far back as 2010. Plenty of times - think England 2009, Pakistan (in England) 2010, South Africa 2014, England 2015 - an Australian touring team have followed resounding victory with abject defeat. Well as Steven Smith's team played in Wellington, they have this mental hurdle to negotiate over the next five days.

Secondly, it is an essential part of this Australian team's DNA to play for a win. Thoughts of absorbing New Zealand's efforts to force a win through self-preserving tactical decisions are unlikely to enter the minds of Smith and the coach Darren Lehmann. Instead they will be going for victory and a 2-0 margin, on a pitch likely to favour the seam bowlers for even longer than the Basin Reserve did. New Zealand's coach Mike Hesson made no secret of his desire to see the Hagley Oval surface prepared to be as lively as possible, so the ball seams around for more than the first morning. Such an outcome may lessen the importance of the toss, but it should also cut the draw out of the equation, making Australia's chance of a successful series closer to 50/50 than 66/33.

Lastly, this is of course Brendon McCullum's final match for New Zealand, an occasion weighty with emotion for every player in the home side and every spectator expected to turn up at a sold out Hagley Oval. The Australians know from personal experience that retirements don't always inspire great Test match performances, but there remains the chance of an exceptionally steely New Zealand display not only for McCullum, but to try to keep intact the team's proud record of not having lost a series at home since 2012. In replacing the injured Doug Bracewell with Matt Henry, they also have the added benefit of including a bowler who was critical to the ODI series win - his duel with Smith will be particularly bracing.

Form guide

New Zealand: LWWLD (last five completed matches, most recent first)
Australia: WDWWW

In the spotlight

In Australia last year, Kane Williamson was close to impassable. This time around, Smith's team have found him somewhat less difficult to dislodge, as disciplined plans to keep Williamson pinned down around the off stump have been rewarded consistently. Equally, Williamson's eagerness to get off to a firm start by capitalising on full deliveries down the ground was penalised by the early seaming conditions at the Basin Reserve. In the final match before he likely takes over the mantle of all-format leadership from McCullum, Williamson will be hoping to set the batting example for his team - substance is required, and he is the best man to deliver it.

Amid the batting feast in Wellington, David Warner sat and watched, doubtless wondering what might have been without his early slash at a Tim Southee delivery angled across him. Such dismissals have seldom been glimpsed when Warner has batted at home over the past three seasons, but they have become increasingly prevalent abroad. Not since Pakistan in October 2014 has he made an overseas Test hundred - in Australia over that period he's made two at the SCG alone. As vice-captain, Warner's enormous ability needs to be melded with responsibility, and to make a century in Christchurch, thus helping Australia to global supremacy, would be a strong step in that direction.

Team news

Doug Bracewell's injury absence will open up a chance for Matt Henry, while the hosts are still mulling over the possible inclusion of Neil Wagner in place of Mark Craig.

New Zealand (possible) 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Tom Latham, 3 Kane Williamson, 4 Henry Nicholls, 5 Brendon McCullum (capt), 6 Corey Anderson, 7 BJ Watling (wk), 8 Mark Craig/Neil Wagner, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Matt Henry, 11 Trent Boult

James Pattinson will come into the Australian side in place of the injured Peter Siddle.

Australia 1 David Warner, 2 Joe Burns, 3 Usman Khawaja, 4 Steven Smith (capt), 5 Adam Voges, 6 Mitchell Marsh, 7 Peter Nevill (wk), 8 James Pattinson, 9 Josh Hazlewood, 10 Nathan Lyon, 11 Jackson Bird

Pitch and conditions

Hagley Oval's pitch looks similarly green to that of Basin Reserve, and both teams are curious as to how it will play. "I think it actually looks pretty similar to the last wicket the day before the game," Smith said. "It's quite hard to tell how it's going to play until you get out there on the morning of the game when they've given it a roll and you see it for the last time."

Stats and trivia

  • Australia will become the world's No. 1 ranked Test team with a win or draw in Christchurch
  • New Zealand have twice come back from 1-0 down to tie a Test series with Australia, at home in 1993 and away in 2011
  • New Zealand won the only previous Test played at Hagley Oval, against Sri Lanka in December 2014


"The goal of this team is to be No. 1 in all formats of the game, and if we win this week, we tick off two of those formats. But for me it is about making sure we are improving and being better."
Steven Smith on his ambitions for Australia

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dion on February 19, 2016, 21:34 GMT

    NZ never has any luck against Australia. They've lost most tosses in the Test series, the no ball, the Lyon decision... Always seems to go against them

  •   Shane Bertschin on February 19, 2016, 21:31 GMT

    So that's it. Good win by Australia. The coin went up, mccullum had a look in - a real up and down contest. Steve smith's at crucial times superior calls the difference. 2-0 Australia

  • Colin on February 19, 2016, 21:21 GMT

    Oh no here's trouble we lost the toss, good luck lads! A 100 off 50 balls from baz would be good :-}

  •   Jono Makim on February 19, 2016, 20:37 GMT

    @Hatsforbats, agree entirely, it's a great shame the Kiwis haven't been able to get Milne into the test side at all over the summer with a keeper/batsman of Watlings ability and Craig's solid batting. They could well afford a five man bowling attack and an out and out attack dog in Milne to come in and bowl short sharp spells. As a captain I'd much rather Milne bowling those spells than Anderson, particularly when the latter is not making any runs. The Kiwis are more than a chance against any side in any conditions but they seem to make some strange selections. Also not sure why Munro can't get a game averaging 48 in FC cricket?

  • Pete on February 19, 2016, 20:08 GMT

    Would love to see Smith win the toss and bat. If it's fortuitous that Australia reaches number one, would add a bit of something to pass the final hurdle with a bit of panache.

  • Vaishak on February 19, 2016, 17:20 GMT

    As an Indian,I do feel it's only fair that Australia r d No 1 test side. No, they aren't as dominant abroad as Waughs and Pontings men, but they r still the best of the lot.That they lost the Ashes didn't help.The other teams,well,only the home advantage seems to be impressive.England recently did well in SA,so that's a change.India compared to other Asian sides seem to have a poorer record coz they play more games.India lose 4 tests in Aus coz they play 4,while SL end up with a 2-0 scoreline since they only compete in 2.Finally,we shud realise that the rankings take no accord of home and away,and current form.Its all a compilation of a teams general trend over a long period.

  • roger on February 19, 2016, 17:04 GMT

    YES. At the end of the test AUS will be #1; All we need is one more "shrug off" from umpire similar to first test and Adelaide. We are on our way to # 1!!!

  • sanjoy on February 19, 2016, 15:47 GMT

    Australia may lose this test and hand over No:1 position to India by default.

  • Peter on February 19, 2016, 15:45 GMT

    The ranking system disregards away matches. A home advantage by creating suitable conditions to your team, a series win is a huge uplift. Fewer tests in a series also benefit. 5 nil in a single series only gives 6 points while three series of 2,2,1 matches can garner 8 points. Any nation that keeps ratcheting series with weaker teams on home soil generally benefits. That said, it is still fairly between the top three or four in any given series. As long as the baggy green consistently win or draw against England, safa and india, I'm not fussed about our rank although the trophy mace looks nice !

  • carl on February 19, 2016, 15:42 GMT

    Our great Indian side has won 6 tests and lost 8 in the last 2 years and we are number 1, surely you guys all know we deserve to be number 1.

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