Cricket: Risky move to request potent pitch

Steve Smith won an important toss for Australia at the Basin Reserve. Photo / Getty
Steve Smith won an important toss for Australia at the Basin Reserve. Photo / Getty

Brendon McCullum has always been a gambler but his streak of toss losses highlights how risky a potent pitch could be in the New Zealand captain's swan song.

Black Caps coach Mike Hesson all but publicly requested a green monster for the second transtasman test, which starts in Christchurch on Saturday.

The upside for the hosts is the prospect of exposing Australia's problems playing the moving ball, as England did last year so successfully at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge.
The downside is it's a 50-50 call.

McCullum has won just three of his 11 past tosses in tests. Across all formats NZ have won eight of their past 32 tosses.

It's a gambler's fallacy to predict what comes next. But if the coin falls the wrong way the hosts will be under immense pressure, as was the case in Wellington where a collapse of 5-34 followed Steve Smith's correct call.

Mitch Marsh is confident Australia can triumph no matter what the surface is or whether they're sent in.

"It doesn't really bother me that much (if they want a green pitch)," Marsh said. "As an allrounder you get a chance to have a crack at both batting and bowling.

"It might be a bit greener ... I certainly think we can (survive if sent in). We go into every test match expecting to win."

Marsh conceded winning the toss was "really important" in Wellington.

"But in saying that we still have to put the ball in the right areas and I thought over the whole test ... we played the conditions really well," he added.

Australia will reclaim the No 1 test ranking with a win or draw at Hagley Oval but barring an unexpected downfall of biblical proportions a result seems almost certain.

NZ swing king Trent Boult noted seam movement wasn't the only way his attack could put Australia under the pump.

"I've only played one test there but it definitely swung around nicely," Boult said. "As a bowler I'd love to see it a lot greener (compared to Wellington). It's going to be interesting to see what we get down there but I'm sure it will have a tinge of green."

Both sides are likely to feature new-look pace attacks. NZ's Doug Bracewell will miss the clash because of a shoulder injury, with Neil Wagner or Matt Henry to play in his absence.

Peter Siddle suffered back spasms at the Basin Reserve and is in doubt for the tour finale. Siddle will aim to prove his fitness on Thursday, with James Pattinson out to do the same after he was dropped because of a lack of match fitness.

Marsh insisted the desire to top the International Cricket Council's rankings wouldn't be a distraction.

"But we're certainly very determined to make it happen," the allrounder added. "It's a big carrot. If it happens this test match it will be a great achievement for this young group, if it doesn't happen we'll keep striving."

Boult felt the visitors had already claimed the mantle.

"They're the best team in the world for a reason and this is what you play for," he said.


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