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From 11.30am December 26-30 Channel 052


IT’S been a long time between drinks – 32 years in fact – but the BLACKCAPS will, finally, play in one of cricket’s iconic events at one of the game’s legendary venues.

The Boxing Day test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground has become a time-honoured tradition that has become a “must watch” event and this year New Zealand fans will have plenty of emotional investment rather than just a passing interest. That’s because the BLACKCAPS, on the back of a series win against England, have the talent and tenacity to front-up against a battle-hardened Australian outfit.

Right across the board, and in both line-ups, there are intriguing match-ups pitting stroke-playing, classy batsmen against tenacious, attacking bowlers.

But it’s the BLACKCAPS bowlers who must provide the strike-power against the powerful Australian batsmen. There’s no question that the fast-medium pace attack comprising of Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Lockie Ferguson, Matt Henry and Neil Wagner must dent the Australian top order.

That won’t be straightforward given that openers David Warner and Joe Burns along with Marcus Labuschagne and the redoubtable (in fact read “mercurial”) Steve Smith are run scoring machines for Australia.

Such has been there dominance in the recently completed series against Pakistan that few of the other batsmen spent a long time at the crease. Therein lies the big test for the BLACKCAPS where ideally early wickets are taken, and pressure piled onto the Australian lower order.

 The BLACKCAPS batsmen will face a searching examination from the likes of fast bowlers Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazelwood and James Pattinson along with the testing off-spin from Nathan Lyon but there’s little doubt that Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Tom Latham and BJ Watling are up to the task of both blunting and scoring against the formidable attack.

For the world class Williamson, the series, and especially the Melbourne clash, represents the chance to showcase to the hard marking Aussies (and their fans) what a special talent he is.

The BLACKCAPS captain has a steely resolve to dominate and despite the ice-cold exterior there is an inner strength and determination to excel on and off-the-field.

His players respect that and he’s the primary reason that if the BLACKCAPS are to succeed, he’s the key bith as a batsman and a leader.

The three-test match series starts in Perth on Thursday December 12 followed by the Melbourne clash with Sydney the venue for the final clash starting on January 3.

Catch all the action live on Sky Sport 2, Sky Go and Sky Sport Now.