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Cricket: McCullum milestone to stop nation

Brendon McCullum will become the first cricketer to play 100 tests from debut. Photo / Getty
Brendon McCullum will become the first cricketer to play 100 tests from debut. Photo / Getty

Expect queues outside the Basin Reserve tomorrow and the GDP to dip through office absences.

Brendon McCullum's 100th consecutive test is upon us. McCullum is set to become the first of 2809 test cricketers to achieve the feat from debut.

As the New Zealand captain prepares to exit after this series against Australia, Henry Nicholls will debut as the country's 269th test cricketer.

The duo bring a baton-passing thread to the occasion. Nicholls will bat at No 4 after Ross Taylor failed to recover from a side strain. He is seen as the successor to McCullum's No 5 position.

McCullum debuted against South Africa at Hamilton in 2004. The 34-year-old is the third New Zealand cricketer to play 100 tests after Stephen Fleming and Daniel Vettori.

The captain reflected on wearing the same black cap since.

"It stinks. I got it out of the bag before... rancid. It's a quirk of test cricket that we use the same equipment...

but it's also a sign of character. It symbolises the hard work, places you've been and emotions you've dealt with."

McCullum has myriad fond test memories. A generic one summed up his experiences.

"I'm proud of the evolution of this team and the performances we've started to put up. The game's about the changing room after tough test wins. Seeing a group of guys achieve something over five days with smiles on their faces, music going on in the background, dirty whites, sweaty black caps and a beer in hand. That's what I got into this for, and it will be my last memory too.

"I'm most proud of being able to get off the canvas when I've struggled for runs under pressure. With strength of character and mind you can do it. The mental game [in general] is the hardest thing when you're doubting yourself."

And the toughest moment?

"Touring India [at Nagpur] I blew my back out before the toss. I was meant to open but batted well down the order. My back was a lot weaker than it should have been, but I got there."

Australian captain Steve Smith also paid tribute, within reason.

"Anyone that plays 100 tests, that's an incredible achievement. Hopefully we can make it a pretty average one for him, to be fair. We want to win, but he's been a terrific player."

If McCullum's side wins either test in the series, the skipper will become the most successful New Zealand captain. He holds top spot with 11 wins from 29 tests in charge (37.9 per cent), followed by Geoff Howarth (11 from 30, 36.67 per cent) and Stephen Fleming (28 from 80, 35 per cent).

While accepting the personal significance of the occasion, McCullum was thrilled Nicholls would get an opportunity.

"He's an unflappable guy in clutch moments. He puts the team first, he's always trying to do something positive [with the bat] and I expect him to have a long and prosperous career."

Nicholls' one-day form has underlined his development in a summer in which he also made consecutive centuries for New Zealand 'A' against Sri Lanka 'A'.

Corey Anderson gets his first test since appearing at Lord's in May, coming in for the injured Mitchell Santner. Off spinner Mark Craig earns a recall after last playing in Australia, with pace bowler Doug Bracewell retained over Neil Wagner.

The last time test queues amassed in New Zealand was two years ago for McCullum's anticipated triple century against India.

Don't risk being late to one of test cricket's extraordinary feats of longevity.

***

New Zealand Cricket has confirmed the first three days of the test had been sold out, as had the first two days of the second test in Christchurch.

NZC's advice to patrons attending the Basin Reserve was to arrive at the venue early in order to avoid queues.

- NZ Herald

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