New Zealand will honour two of its great servants when Kane Williamson and captain Tim Southee play their 100th Test in Christchurch but Australia stand poised to torpedo the celebrations by completing a series sweep.

Eight years after Brendon McCullum’s farewell Test was spoiled by Australia at Hagley Oval, the Black Caps will be desperate to give Williamson and Southee a win to square the two-match series.

Australia, however, is celebrating a milestone of its own — one which is likely to have a greater bearing on the result.

Its bowling ‘fab four’ of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon will combine for an unprecedented seventh straight Test, a rare run of injury-free action for one of the nation’s great attacks.

“I think I said at the start of the summer I’d be surprised if we played all seven because it’s rare that something doesn’t pop up,” captain Cummins told reporters on Thursday.

“But thankfully we’ve all managed the little niggles … pretty well.

“We’re not limping over the line, and we feel like we’re in a greater position than I thought we’d be in a couple of months ago.”

What New Zealand would do for such consistency in manpower.

Having lost Kyle Jamieson to a back fracture in a bitter blow before the series, New Zealand are forced to blood uncapped quick Ben Sears in Christchurch following Will O’Rourke’s hamstring injury in the Wellington defeat.

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The hosts remain at sixes and sevens over the choice of a fourth bowler after paying dearly for the lack of a specialist spinner at the Basin Reserve where Nathan Lyon took 10 wickets.

Selectors are yet to make a call on whether they should plough on with Scott Kuggeleijn as a fourth quick or bring back spin-bowling all-rounder Mitch Santner.

Southee, meanwhile, has not been pulling his weight in the bowling, managing only four wickets in his past three Tests.

“Each week you’re trying to go out and put your best foot forward,” Southee said on Thursday.

“But there’s no hiding from the fact that the last couple of Test matches have been disappointing. I know that. I’d always like more wickets. And hopefully, there’s some to come.”


Run out for a duck in Wellington before a cheap dismissal by Lyon, Williamson is also determined to rebound and help New Zealand bury a 31-year winless streak on home soil against Australia.

Anything less than victory will go down as another missed opportunity for the Black Caps to free themselves of one of the most stubborn psychological blocks in the sport.

For all that, New Zealand is not bereft of hope.

Australia’s 172-run win in Wellington in four days flattered them somewhat, and the hosts were the architects of their own demise early on day two.

Though Cameron Green got away with an unbeaten 174 and a huge 10th wicket partnership with Josh Hazlewood, the tourists’ batters were otherwise well-contained.

Several, including forlorn number three Marnus Labuschagne and wicketkeeper Alex Carey, are under major pressure.

Should New Zealand get their bowling selection right and Williamson gets back in the runs, Christchurch could have a very different complexion to the opening match in Wellington.

With favourable weather forecast at a ground that has produced results in 11 of 12 matches, fans should be in for a treat as both teams go for broke.

Victory for either team will shore up their place near the top of the World Test Championship standings.


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