Pat Cummins is proud of his players' mental strength ahead of the final Test of the summer in NZ. Image by AP PHOTO
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Cummins reveals special goal ahead of second Kiwi Test

Ben McKay March 7, 2024

While the fatigue factor is real, Pat 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.

“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.”

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.

Marnus 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 batsmen’s blushes.

Australia’s auto-selection of Nathan Lyon is in contrast to the Black Caps, who are mulling whether there will be enough in the wicket to justify picking their best spinner, Mitchell Santner.

Captain Tim Southee confirmed quick Ben Sears would debut in Christchurch, making the race for the last place between Santner and Scott Kuggeleijn.

 Australia captain Pat Cummins will be hoping to win his first coin toss on their New Zealand tour. Image by Andrew Cornaga/AAP PHOTOS 

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.”

Should he win the toss – the Black Caps have made four straight winning calls during this tour – Cummins said the decision would come down to one key question.

“The thing you’re always judging is the first innings going to be easier or harder to bat than the fourth innings,” he said.