The Black Caps have handed Tom Blundell the opportunity of his cricketing career.
Blundell will open the batting against Australia on Boxing Day at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, replacing Jeet Raval after Raval's horror run continued with two cheap dismissals in the first test in Perth.
The move was on the cards after Raval's recent performances - averaging 7.3 in his last nine test innings - and Blundell was named as his replacement this afternoon, opening the batting alongside Tom Latham in a warm-up match against a Victoria XI.
Blundell showed promising form, making 59 before retiring, and spoke afterwards about his excitement of getting to walk out to open the batting at the MCG.
"I've been given a great opportunity here, and it's going to be a great day playing in front of 80,000 people. This will probably be the biggest test match of my life, so I'm really looking forward to it."
The Wellington wicketkeeper has played two tests – making a century on debut against the West Indies in 2017 – but has spent most of time recently as squad cover – either for BJ Watling in tests, or Latham in one-dayers. Blundell didn't play at the World Cup despite being named in the squad, and has played just four games since May, running the drinks in the recent test series against England.
Tom Blundell played two tests in 2017. Photo / Photosport
He has also never opened in the longest form of the game, but believes he has the necessary skills and patience to cope with the difficult role.
"I think it's just a mindset shift – being a bit more patient outside off stump, getting through 30-odd balls and once you do that, expanding my game from there."
The Black Caps selectors considered using Watling at the top of the order, and having Blundell take the gloves and bat in the middle order. But, with Watling in excellent form both with the bat and behind the stumps, he will retain his role, with Blundell slotting in alongside Latham to face the new ball.
His task will be made more difficult by the occasion, with 80,000 fans expected for the iconic clash in Melbourne, while the Australian seamers – Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and the recalled James Pattinson – will also provide a stern examination.
"That's the biggest challenge – you're playing in such a big stadium in front of so many people, hopefully I can deal with it well," Blundell said.
"It's a pretty big occasion, but I'm trying not to think about who I'll be facing against, I'm just trying to put that all aside and focus on what I do best.
"Hopefully I can do that come Boxing Day."
Black Caps' Expected XI:
Tom Latham, Tom Blundell, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling, Colin de Grandhomme, Mitchell Santner/Todd Astle, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult