Simon Katich and Michael Hussey have shared many things over the years, from their days of playing junior cricket against each other as nine-year-olds in Perth to Katich being the best man at Hussey's wedding. On Saturday, they will walk out on to Seddon Park in Hamilton each celebrating their 50th Test match for Australia, having taken very different paths to get there.
Katich debuted at 25 and was considered a long-term Test player until a poor 2005 Ashes tour led to his axing, and it was only through record-breaking efforts for New South Wales that he forced his way back in during 2008. Katich's last Test before that near three-year break came at the Gabba in 2005-06, and it also happened to mark the debut of Hussey, who at 30 was worried he might have missed his chance.
As the two men, both fit at 34 but with flecks of grey hair betraying their years, stood at Seddon Park thinking about their mini-milestone their minds wandered back to their junior days in Perth. They traded banter with the ease of old mates, Katich joking that at 12 he had a full beard and Hussey had a high-pitched voice, while Hussey remembered his Wanneroo boys losing a premiership to Katich's Midland-Guildford club.
"The one thing I remember was playing a grand final, Under-13s against each other and Simon Katich's mum made a cake for both teams to celebrate after the game," Hussey said. "That was quite good, both teams got together after the game and we all shared this big chocolate cake. That's one thing I remember about the Katich family. They won."
Despite the light-hearted repartee, Hussey and Katich both said it was very special to share their 50th Test with each other, especially as five years ago neither thought the day would ever come. When Hussey eventually got his chance at Test level he started with a bang, averaging 86.33 after 14 matches, and it was that drive that helped inspire Katich to force his way back.
"Personally probably three years ago I didn't think I'd play Test cricket again," Katich said. "It's different for Huss. He has been a constant in the team for the last four years and he has been outstanding. I certainly got a lot of inspiration out of that, seeing him do so well and he deserves every success he's had because he has worked so hard to get here and when he grabbed his opportunity, he grabbed it with both hands."
Together, Katich and Hussey's Test tally on Saturday will add up to the hundred being celebrated by the New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori. They might not have Test futures as long as Vettori, who is four years younger, but such has been the success of the Australians over the past few years that Hussey, with half the games, has still played in more Test wins (33) than Vettori (31).
Victory in Hamilton would give Australia the series 2-0 and it would be Katich's 25th Test win. But Katich, who appeared on Celebrity Masterchef last year, doesn't expect a chocolate cake from his Mum this time. "I do all the baking now," he said.
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo