Five reasons for New Zealand to dream big at the MCG

Trent Boult is making good progress ahead of Boxing Day Getty Images

New Zealand suffered a thumping 296-run defeat in Perth, meaning they have a mountain to climb to stay in the series and set up a decider at the SCG in the new year. However, they are not No. 2 in the world for nothing, and a bad week does not mean they are a bad team. It is a huge task, but here a few reasons why they can feel hopeful.

The band is back together

When 255 Test wickets sit out, it is going to leave a hole. Trent Boult will be back in New Zealand's line-up for Melbourne, bringing his experience and potency with the new ball. It means that the trio of Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner - who can lay claim to being New Zealand's finest-ever pace combination - are in harness again.

"It's always nice to have an experienced player back. He's a seasoned performer," Southee said. "Not only our partnership, but Wags as well, the three of us, we've played a lot of cricket together and had a lot of success together and we work very well together. Trent, myself and Wags have played in various conditions and we've had some success in most parts of the world."

A chance to refresh

There can sometimes be two ways to want to respond to a heavy defeat; have time to reflect or get back at it straightaway. However, in New Zealand's case, the fact that it has been the former is almost certainly a good thing, especially for the bowlers. After losing Lockie Ferguson to injury on the opening day in Perth, Southee and Wagner put in a huge workload for the remainder of the game and it would have been a struggle to get up again in a back-to-back scenario.

"It would have been interesting with a three-day turnaround," Southee agreed. "It's been a long break and the guys are ready and keen to get back into some cricket."

They also know that some of the elements of the opening Test wouldn't be repeated, with the traditional red-ball and daytime hours back in play.


In recent times, New Zealand have responded well to defeats. They have not lost back-to-back Tests since 2016. In the last 12 months, they have twice answered hefty losses on the road by winning the next match. Against Pakistan in the UAE, they lost the second Test by an innings and 16 runs then claimed the series by winning the next by 123 runs in Abu Dhabi, and in Sri Lanka earlier this year, responded to a six-wicket loss with an innings-and-65-run victory. Their last win in Australia, back in 2011 in Hobart, also came in similar circumstances after a thrashing in Brisbane was turned around into a famous seven-run win. There are four survivors from that match (Williamson, Taylor, Boult and Southee), who will line up at the MCG. This New Zealand team knows how to fight back.

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Element of the unknown

No, this isn't about the pitch (there's been plenty about that), but instead about Tom Blundell. He has been thrust into the opening position in place of Jeet Raval, which would seem quite a thankless task against this Australian attack - and it's probably not how he planned to resume his Test career - but in many ways he has nothing to lose. He made a Test hundred on debut and also scored an excellent century in the lead-up to the World Cup against West Indies. As ever, the opposition will have done their homework, but he may just be able to catch them by surprise.

Travelling support

New Zealand won't be short of support. Estimates have said there could be 16,000 New Zealand fans as part of a huge Boxing Day crowd, which is expected to be upward of 70,000. Because of the size of the grounds back home, that is more of their supporters than they would play in front of on their own soil. "It's a great occasion to be a part of," Southee said. "A lot of great New Zealand cricketers haven't had the chance to do it so it's something special." Much has been made of them perhaps being overawed by the moment, but why can't they use it as inspiration?