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Black Caps seek 'great feat' 50 years after first

By Kris Shannon,
Publish Date
Mon, 11 Mar 2024, 8:24AM
Ben Sears celebrates the wicket of Cameron Green. Photo / Photosport
Ben Sears celebrates the wicket of Cameron Green. Photo / Photosport

Black Caps seek 'great feat' 50 years after first

By Kris Shannon,
Publish Date
Mon, 11 Mar 2024, 8:24AM

Almost exactly 50 years ago, playing on a seam-friendly pitch in Christchurch, New Zealand beat Australia for the first time in test cricket.

Glenn Turner scored two hundreds and ended unbeaten in the chase, while Richard Hadlee picked up seven scalps on his home patch.

Half a century later, 3km west of Lancaster Park, a ninth test victory over Australia is tantalisingly close for Tom Latham, Matt Henry and the rest of the Black Caps.

They will walk out at Hagley Oval this morning requiring six more wickets. The reigning world champions need 202 runs. Time is no concern on day four, nor a forecast that remains clear.

Either the tourists complete a sweep and continue their decades-long dominance in this rivalry, or the hosts square a two-match series and repeat the feat of 1974.

Sitting last night in Sir Richard Hadlee Sports Centre, Latham was wary of forecasting what such a win would mean, briefly entertaining that outcome before reverting to the task at hand.

“It would be a great feat,” the opener said. “That’s the end goal but there’s a lot of work to do, and if you look too far ahead sometimes you can get caught out.

“If that comes it would be fantastic, but it’s about taking it each ball at a time. We’re in a good position and if we can take a few early wickets hopefully we can do the job.”

Wickets were far from elusive on the third afternoon. After half-centuries on day two for Latham (73) and Kane Williamson (51) were complemented yesterday by Rachin Ravindra (82) and Daryl Mitchell (58), New Zealand set their opponents a target of 279.

That was six short of the ground record — achieved by the Black Caps against Sri Lanka last summer — but Australia had completed an equivalent chase five times in the past 20 years.

Boasting an imperious top four, they must have been confident of making it six. Until Henry and Ben Sears removed those four batters in a blistering eight-over span.

The veteran nipped one in to Steve Smith that would have struck middle had it not hit pad, then squared up Usman Khawaja and watched Tim Southee brilliantly snaffle his nick.

The rookie induced a leading edge from Marnus Labuschagne and completed the return catch, then found a bit of swing while breaching 140km/h to make Cameron Green drag on.

Throughout this series, the tourists have been fond of saying their lineup features the six best batters in Australia. Four were back in the pavilion with 34 on the scoreboard.

“If you’d offered at the start of the day that we’d have them four down and still 200 to get, I’m sure we would’ve taken it,” Latham said.

“Henners has been fantastic. He’s able to move the ball off the surface, which as we’ve seen has been a challenge. He’s done a fantastic job — he bowls a lot of overs, he’s got a great engine on him and keeps coming back.

“Searsy in his first test match, to bowl the way he has, to put pressure on their guys, swing the ball and pick up a couple of valuable wickets is outstanding. I’m sure he’ll take plenty of confidence from that.”

Last night’s on-field celebrations suggested the debutant’s exuberance was spreading. Six more wickets and Christchurch 2024 will join Hobart 2011, New Zealand’s last win over Australia, and Auckland 1993, their most recent at home.

Travis Head (17no) and Mitch Marsh (27no) carry their side’s hopes, two positive batters supported by wicketkeeper Alex Carey and a big-hitting tail.

Six more wickets and this 50th anniversary will be particularly golden.

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