New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum pads up for his final Test Saturday in Christchurch, with Australia determined to ruin his farewell party as they eye world domination. (New Zealand Want Greener Pitch For Second Test Versus Australia)
If Australia sweep the two-Test series, which they lead 1-0, they will hurdle India to be the top-ranked Test side in the world, which is part of their master plan to head all formats of the game. (Peter Siddle Ruled Out of Christchurch Test)
They are already number one in one-day internationals and have a chance to lift their Twenty20 ranking from eighth at the World Twenty20 in India next month. (Doug Bracewell Ruled Out of Second Test)
“We are going to be doing our best to make sure we spoil his last game,” Australia captain Steve Smith warned ahead of the second Test which will be McCullum’s international swansong. (Brendon McCullum Blames Poor Umpiring For Wellington Defeat)
“But he has been a terrific player and a great servant of New Zealand cricket for a long time.”
Despite the groundsman at Hagley Oval saying it was not his job to produce grassy, seaming wickets just because that’s what New Zealand wanted, the pitch had a considerable green hue when both sides looked at it on Thursday.
It adds importance to winning the toss, as Australia found at the first Test in Wellington when they rolled New Zealand for 183 inside two sessions on the first day and went on to win by an innings and 52 runs.
Calling the toss correctly is not McCullum’s forte — he has won just three of the past 11 — but in case his luck turns New Zealand have publicly called for a green top.
“As a bowler I’d love to see it a lot greener” than Wellington, said Boult.
– Extra effort –
However, Australian all-rounder Mitchell Marsh, who has a knack for dismissing McCullum, claimed he was not concerned about the colour of the pitch because Australia “go into every Test match expecting to win”.
Marsh, who has removed McCullum four times during this series and the November Tests in Australia, marked the 34-year-old New Zealander as a wicket Australia put extra effort into claiming.
“We always have plans for every batter so it’s nice when they come off and you get him out and, hopefully, we’ll continue to do that,” he said.
“To be honest, I don’t care who gets him as long as someone does. He’s a high-class player and a big wicket … we do always get up for him.”
But Marsh also knows that if the big-hitting McCullum gets his eye in then it’s best not to be bowling.
“If he comes out swinging, I’ll probably just stay at gully, I reckon,” he said.
Boult described McCullum’s 101st and last Test as “pretty sad” for the New Zealand team.
“Everyone has played with him for that long and he’s good mates with everyone in the team. He’s changed the game… he’s going to be sorely missed.”
There will be changes to both line-ups for the second Test.
Back problems Thursday ruled out Australia’s Peter Siddle with James Pattinson expected to replace him while New Zealand’s Doug Bracewell has a shoulder injury. Either Neil Wagner or Matt Henry will take his place.