Boxing Day test: A punter's view

9:23 am on 27 December 2019

As Trent Boult bowled Joe Burns in the first over, the crowd erupted into deafening cheers and applause, and you might have thought, just for a moment, that you were at a packed Eden Park or Cake-tin, such was the support for the Black Caps. But only for a moment. The Gee, as they call it over here, is something special.

Trent Boult celebrates the wicket of Joe Burns during the 2nd ICC World Test Championship match New Zealand Black Caps v Australia. Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, Australia. Thursday 26 December 2019. ©Copyright Photo: Chris Symes /

Trent Boult celebrates the wicket of Joe Burns during the second test between New Zealand Black Caps v Australia. Melbourne Cricket Ground. Thursday 26 December 2019. Photo: © Photosport Ltd 2019

An estimated 11,000 New Zealanders were at the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the first day's play with the crowd topping 80 thousand - the eighth biggest test crowd in Australia of all time. Those are figures that will surely vindicate the decision to give the Black Caps their first Melbourne test in 32 years.

The Lord's Ground in London is the traditional home of cricket. But you can pack in only 30,000 there. Being among a cheery, beery crowd of 80,000 is an experience all of its own.

You walk to the ground through the Yarra Park, in beautiful scenery, just a stroll from the central city hotels. You reach the ground and gain entry, and walk out on to the concourse. The size of it really hits you, especially as it is packed. The noise swirls around when there is a big moment, like a wicket falling. The Aussies seemed as excited today by a wicket falling as the New Zealand fans, but they might have felt differently had there been more than four people out.

A day's test cricket under a hot sun gives plenty of opportunity for the drinking of beer and there is a slightly boozy atmosphere even before play starts. It was a friendly one though - I didn't see anyone being hauled out for being unruly.

The playing area itself is huge and therefore not ideal for watching cricket. The players seem a long way away, with boundaries nearing 90 metres, compared with say Eden Park with its boundaries between 55 and 70 metres. You feel as if good batters should be able to find gaps in the field. Despite the name, this is really an AFL ground these days with the cricket pitch having to be dropped in.

It makes me think of Lance Cairns' memorable six sixes in a game here in 1983. It is really something to hit a six on this ground.

"Eleven thousand Kiwis over here? Let's hope they all go home again," a radio broadcaster quipped. Part of the fun of an Australia v New Zealand cricket match is the rivalry, the banter as if between two brothers. Every Aussie I speak to about the cricket assures me their team will win. Of course, usually they're right.

Before the Perth test, the Channel Seven commentators repeated over and over that the Black Caps were rated number two in the world. The smug looks on their faces suggested they didn't really believe it, but only Glenn McGrath was frank enough to say so. "Every time we play them," he opined, "I hear how good the Kiwis are. But they don't ever beat us, do they."

That's very much the feeling you get from Australian fans. Respect for the Black Caps, but total confidence their side will win.

The humble, quiet, methodical approach of Kane Williamson and his players makes it hard for the Australian fans to find a villain, and Aussies always love to have someone to hate. In the 80s, the "Hadlee's a w**ker" chant grew so loud that then Prime Minister Bob Hawke appealed to the fans to pipe down. I don't perceive anyone is yet a similar target though I heard someone shouting at Williamson "you garden gnome."

Some of the most memorable moments in New Zealand's cricket history have happened here. As well as Cairns' sixes, Trevor Chappell's underarm was bowled at the MCG in 1981. And in 1987, only a questionable umpiring decision stopped New Zealand from winning a Melbourne test.

The Black Caps have the players to make history here. They will need more luck on the second day than they had on the first.

If they do win, the 11,000 strong Kiwi contingent will be delighted, and it might just be that the Australians won't mind too much either. Because they'll be totally confident about smashing us at Sydney.