Pitch report: Basin Reserve, Wellington
Ends: Vance Stand End, Scoreboard End
Home Team: Wellington
Test History: 57 Tests; 16 home wins; 18 away wins; 23 draws
Last 10 Tests: 2 home wins; 3 away wins; 5 draws
Last 10 tosses: 2 batted first (1 win, 1 draw); 8 bowled first (1 win, 3 defeats, 4 draws)
The Basin Reserve hosted its first Test in 1930, when openers Stewie Dempster and Jack Mills became the first New Zealanders to score Test tons in their stand of 276. England were the visitors on that occasion, and managed to hold on for a draw.
It wasn't until 1969 that New Zealand tasted victory on their most beautiful ground (it's protected by an Act of Parliament and is the only sports ground on New Zealand's National Heritage list) when the West Indies were the visitors.
Nestled beneath Mount Victoria and Mount Cook, the Basin is a proper cricket ground, with a cracking sun-trap of a grass bank on the eastern side, which also offers shelter from the notoriously unpredictable southerly winds that can whip across the ground.
The Basin Reserve owes its existence to an 1855 earthquake that levelled out enough ground for a cricket field, and is the scene of many of New Zealand cricket's finest moments: Sir Richard Hadlee took his 300th Test wicket here, while Martin Crowe (299) and Andrew Jones (186) put on 467 for the third wicket against Sri Lanka in 1990-1 – at that time a world record.
Last Time Out
The most recent Test here was a year ago, between the Black Caps and Sri Lanka, which the hosts won by 193 runs before tea on day five.
Sri Lanka won the toss and opted to bowl, as is tradition, and did well with the ball, bowling the hosts out for 221 in under 56 overs. Only Kane Williamson's 69 ensured a score above 200.
Sri Lanka then scored 356 runs, with Kumar Sangakkara bagging a double century, and they looked well on track for a win despite the amount of time left in the game. Doug Bracewell and Jimmy Neesham took three wickets each.
The Kiwis recovered well though, and a double ton from Williamson, as well as a century by BJ Watling, saw the Kiwis make 524/5 declared. This left Sri Lanka needing 390 to win.
But four wickets by spinner Mark Craig put an end to that dream, as Sri Lanka were bowled out for 196, a dramatic turn around after their good efforts in the first two days.
New Zealand batsman Kane Williamson after his double ton: "It is a good cricket wicket. Usually provides a little for the ball and bat. It definitely flattened out a lot so it was great for BJ and I to put up that partnership, and then set it up for the bowlers to take it through."
Kiwi skipper McCullum: "It was great to see Mark Craig get four wickets in the last innings of a Test match too, especially on a wicket that wasn't turning a great deal. It was an excellent effort to manufacture a win from nowhere, really."
Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Mathews: "It was a shocking turnaround, I thought. We were able to put New Zealand under pressure by the third day, but we dropped a couple of sitters and good players make it count. Williamson did exactly that with Watling. They reversed pressure on us, and we couldn't hold on."
Australia coach Darren Lehmann this week: "They will be similar conditions to England to some extent and we'll need to adjust accordingly with bat and ball. We've learned from our mistakes in England if the wickets do swing and seam around, and looking at the pitch here at the Basin it’s got a bit of grass on it now but it’s nice and level so I think it will end up being a really good wicket."
Happy Hunting Ground
Brendon McCullum is 112 runs short of becoming the Basin Reserve's top run getter in Tests. This is his final chance to overtake Martin Crowe, who sits top with 1123 runs. Kane Williamson averages 85 here, in six Tests.
Bowling-wise, Trent Boult is the best of the current lot, with 20 wickets in four Tests, while Tim Southee has 18 in seven. They're well behind Chris Martin, who holds the record with 60.
For the Aussies, none of the players in the team have played at this venue, with the last time they came here in 2010. That was also the last time New Zealand lost at this venue.
The weather is set to be cool to moderate on all five days, never going above 25 degrees, with cloud cover to some degree every day as well. It doesn't appear to have rain on the horizon though, not much of it anyway, though the clouds will make swing bowling fun to face!
Bowling first here seems to be par for the course, to mix sporting metaphors, because the grass on the deck on day one can see a batting side skittled out cheaply.
Bowling on days one and two is generally preferred, and after that it flattens out for batsmen who can maintain concentration. Turn tends to arrive only late in the game.
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