New Zealand’s cricket team have run a gamut of emotions this week after they slumped to a heavy first test loss to Australia then won three awards at their country’s premier sports awards on Thursday.
Now they have the opportunity to send captain Brendon McCullum into international retirement with a possible test victory that would also prevent trans-Tasman rivals Australia from reclaiming the world’s top ranking in test cricket.
It is that emotion, however, that McCullum and team management have been attempting to rein in before the second match begins at Hagley Oval in Christchurch on Saturday.
All the 34-year-old wants his team to do is play the type of cricket that, until Monday’s loss at the Basin Reserve, contributed to a run of 13 home tests without defeat.
“We’ve talked among the group and thought we were a bit too keen in the last test. Sometimes when you want something so much, you start to tighten up a little bit,” McCullum told reporters on the eve of his 101st and final test.
› Factbox – New Zealand versus Australia, second test
“The focus is to get back to what’s worked for us in the last three years, play with a lot of enthusiasm, play with a smile on the face and try and seize the key moments when they arrive.”
It was Steve Smith’s side who seized the key moments in the Wellington contest, which they captured by an innings and 52 runs.
They won the toss and exploited the favourable seam conditions to reduce the hosts to 51 for five inside 12 overs. From that point on, New Zealand were always chasing the game.
The hosts also did not help themselves. Smith was dropped on 18 before he made 71, Usman Khawaja survived a missed stumping on 34 before he made 140, while Adam Voges plundered 239 after he was wrongly reprieved when bowled on seven.
Khawaja and Smith combined for a 126-run partnership, Voges and Khawaja put on 168 runs, while Voges added 99 runs with Peter Siddle and 96 with Peter Nevill to ensure the tourists compiled a mammoth total in their one and only innings.
“Australia, if you give them an inch, they know how to take it,” McCullum said. “That’s why they’ve been such a good team for such a long period of time.
“We have got a job to do. We are one-nil down in the series. We have got one test to go and we have to find a way to square the series.”