The Black Caps play one of their biggest test matches in years when they take on Australia in the pink-ball day-night test in Perth tomorrow. Niall Anderson runs through all you need to know ahead of the showdown.
When is it?
Ah, a pertinent opening question, and one made more relevant with the late start and requisite timezone translations. A thorough investigation by the Herald Sport Investigations team (one man with internet access) has revealed that the test will start at 6pm each day (weather permitting), with the first session running from 6-8pm, the second from 8.40-10.40pm, and the third from 11pm-1am. And then, when the inevitable slow over rate kicks in, we'll all stay up for an extra half hour. My commiserations, morning shift workers.
Where is it?
Gee we're nailing all the basics here. The test is in Perth – but not where you would normally find test cricket. Yes, the WACA, where Ross Taylor scored 290 last time the Black Caps visited Perth, has been usurped by Optus Stadium (home of the All Blacks' biggest defeat, just quietly...) where the two teams will meet in just the fourth venue to host a day-night test in Australia.
What's the deal with the day-night test?
The players use a pink ball, with play running until 9pm local time, meaning there is significant time spent playing under lights. The seam of the pink ball can often be harder for batsmen to pick up, meaning the conditions generally favour bowlers, especially fast bowlers, while in the past, teams have declared their innings early in order to use the new ball at night.
What is New Zealand's day-night record?
They have only played two day-night tests – one against Australia in 2015 where they lost by three wickets in a low-scoring test, and the other famously came against England, who were put into bat at Eden Park last year and were 27-9 until Craig Overton smacked a few boundaries to get them through to an only-slightly-less humiliating 58, as the Black Caps won by an innings and 49 runs. But, while New Zealand have a solid record, it's not all good news…
Spit it out man - what?
Well, Australia have played six day-night tests, winning them all. They've won both their contests under lights this year, by an innings, including a demolition of Pakistan just two weeks ago, smacking 589-3 before rolling the visitors twice. It's plenty of practice compared to the Black Caps, who have had just a few sessions training under lights, and will go from largely lifeless wickets in New Zealand to an expected fast and bouncy pitch and conditions that could be quite the wake-up call.
Hmm. And NZ's record in Aus … isn't great?
No. The Black Caps have only won three times in 31 tests played in Australia, and have only won one out of the 12 series played across the ditch - way back in 1985. The famous seven-run win in Hobart in 2011 is the only test they've won in Australia since that year, and rare are the occasions that the contests have even been close.
So they're not the favourites then?
No. While New Zealand are ranked higher in the test world rankings, Australia's home record is formidable, and their destruction of Pakistan shows that they seem to be back to their best - hence why they are $1.28 favourites to New Zealand's $6.50. As my much wiser colleague Dylan Cleaver pointed out, while the Black Caps have a decent chance of victory, especially in the later tests, Perth could be an ambush, and may be the hardest challenge they get this tour.
Are there any other challenges?
The weather! Temperatures are expected to range between 38 and 41 degrees for the first four days. Extra drinks breaks, anyone? Neil Wagner is going to bowl 12 consecutive overs then pass out on the pitch.
Which NZ seamers will join Wagner?
Tim Southee, for sure, but there are concerns over Trent Boult's fitness, with the seamer unlikely to overcome a side strain which saw him miss the second England test. If he's confirmed out, Lockie Ferguson could become the 18th New Zealander to make a test debut in Australia, or they could go with Matt Henry, the more conservative option, despite his less-than-stellar test bowling average of 48.5.
The rest of the team picks itself, including out-of-form opener Jeet Raval, who is set to get a chance to bat himself out of his awful rut. Ross Taylor copped a blow to the hand in the nets yesterday but is expected to be fine to play tomorrow, as is Colin de Grandhomme.
Likely Black Caps XI: Tom Latham, Jeet Raval, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling, Colin de Grandhomme, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult/Lockie Ferguson/Matt Henry.
And what about Australia?
Coach Justin Langer said he'd "be a brave man to change the XI" given their recent run, so an unchanged lineup is expected for the third test in a row.
Likely Australia XI: David Warner, Joe Burns, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Matthew Wade, Travis Head, Tim Paine, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.
How can I follow the test?
The Herald will be live blogging the test, while New Zealand audiences can also follow live commentary on Radio Sport, and live streaming is available via Sky Sport.
And, if you can't stay up the whole night, I'll have coverage from each day's play online for when you wake up, plus something extra for Premium subscribers every morning.