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The Roar


Aussies confirm Marnus call with team locked in for second New Zealand Test as Cummins reveals special goal

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7th March, 2024
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Australia have resisted any temptation to drop the out of form Marnus Labuschagne, with captain Pat Cummins confirming an unchanged XI for the second Test against New Zealand.

After scores of 1 and 2 in Australia’s 172-run victory in the first Test in Wellington, speculation had grown rife Labuschagne, whose form over the last 18 months has fallen off a cliff, could have his spot in jeopardy.

But with the Christchurch Test Australia’s last before next summer’s blockbuster five-Test home series against India, Cummins confirmed on Thursday morning Labuschagne would remain at number three, with the side which got the job done in Wellington backed in to repeat the dose.

Australia are seeking an eighth straight Test victory over the Black Caps, and haven’t lost a red-ball match in the country in more than 30 years.

New Zealand will unveil express paceman Ben Sears for his Test debut, replacing injured youngster Will O’Rourke (hamstring), while a decision is yet to be made on whether quick Scott Kuggeleijn will be retained, or specialist spin bowler Mitchell Santner recalled.

While the fatigue factor is real, Cummins says his Test side has resolved to hit the finish line of a mammoth summer at full pace.

The second Test against New Zealand, which starts at Christchurch’s Hagley Oval on Friday, will bring the curtain down on a mighty touring schedule dating back to August.


Cummins and his side have played back-to-back series across all three formats in four countries with at most a week’s break between matches.

That run includes a short-form tour of South Africa, the ODI World Cup in India – with short form matches on both sides of the tournament – hosting Pakistan and West Indies, before the current New Zealand tour.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 05: Pat Cummins of Australia celebrates after taking the wicket of Ross Taylor of New Zealand during day three of the Third Test match in the series between Australia and New Zealand at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 05, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Pat Cummins celebrates after taking a wicket against New Zealand at Sydney in 2020. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

“We know this is the last big push for a while,” Cummins said. “That’s been a lot of the focus … it’s all geared towards this being a big week and the last big week for a while.”

Next up in the international calendar is June’s T20 World Cup in USA-West Indies, while the Test side won’t assemble again until next summer’s five-Test visit by India.

After confirming the same XI for the fourth straight Test would play in Christchurch, Cummins said he was surprised by the endurance of the pace trio.

“I think I said at the start of the summer, I’d be surprised if we played all seven because it’s rare that something doesn’t pop up,” he said.


Physically, Cummins said the side “had a fair bit of freshness” and wasn’t “limping over the line”.

Mentally, he admitted the need to manage exhaustion which was “definitely real”.

“I’ve been really proud of how the group is, everyone’s in a great frame of mind,” he said. “That’s down to the characters in the group and how we manage the environment.”

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 27: Steve Smith of Australia bats during day three of the Second Test match in the series between Australia and West Indies at The Gabba on January 27, 2024 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Steve Smith. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

In naming the same XI again, attention will turn to how the Aussie bats handle the pitch, with some feeling the pinch.

Steve Smith is at his lowest ICC Test batting ranking in a decade as he steps into David Warner’s shoes at the top of the order.

Labuschagne is on his worst run of outs in his Test career, with six straight innings without getting past 10.


Alex Carey was also a poor performer in the first Test, which Australia won by 172 runs after Cam Green’s first-innings 174, sparing some of the batters’ blushes.

Another green pitch has been prepared but Cummins said he wasn’t predicting carnage.

“It’s not like a Gabba green wicket day one where it’s going to seam all over the place,” he said. “I think the trend is it starts off really green and gets a bit flatter … they still play pretty truly here.”

Australia XI for second Test: Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne, Cameron Green, Travis Head, Mitchell Marsh, Alex Carey (wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins (c), Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.

with AAP