Kiwi quick shreds reporter, teammates
Trent Boult was in fine form in front of the microphones yesterday - and New Zealand will be hoping he takes that same hot streak onto the MCG with him.
The Black Caps' best bowler missed the first Test loss to Australia in Perth with a rib muscle injury but is set to return on Boxing Day after working his way back towards full fitness.
Put up for media duties by the Kiwis on Monday, the left-arm quick was all smiles as he had some fun at the expense of reporters and even his own teammates.
Boult has dismissed run-machine Steve Smith four times in five Tests and when asked if he had his eye on anyone specific in the Australian top order, Boult played with a bat so straight Smith himself would have been proud.
"I love this question," Boult said to laughs from the media pack. "I don't have my eye on anyone at all but I'm just here to have fun."
Boult found his rhythm by sending down some overs against his countrymen for a Victorian XI on Sunday, switching allegiances to ensure he had some form of match practice heading into the biggest day on the Australian cricket calendar.
Boult again had journalists chuckling when he mentioned he was "a proud representative of Victoria" and was quick to respond when one reporter from his homeland questioned whether he had looked to expose any of New Zealand's batting weaknesses while playing for the other side.
"Jesus, Brian, you're a Kiwi aren't you?" Boult joked as his stand-up routine continued.
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Comrades came under fire too. Quizzed about any sledging of his teammates while steaming in for Victoria, Boult said he "wanted to sledge Wags (Neil Wagner) but he wasn't out there long enough" and he even gave captain Kane Williamson a drive-by when asked whether the nature of the MCG pitch would give the skipper a headache about whether to bat or bowl first should the coin land his way.
"I'm not sure, that would be a question you'd have to ask him (Williamson) but I know he hasn't won too many tosses so he might not have to worry about it," Boult said.
Boult, like all the visitors, will be under pressure to perform, especially after their first Test drubbing, and asked whether he's feeling that weight of expectation ahead of Thursday the 30-year-old was quick to clarify just where his responsibility lies.
"Hopefully with the ball but not with the bat. I'm the No. 11 batsman for the reason," he said with a grin.
Boult has taken 255 Test scalps, including 17 in Australian conditions, the latter placing him sixth on the all-time Kiwi list. His average in Australia of 33.5 runs per wicket is bettered only by the great Richard Hadlee and Doug Bracewell among New Zealand's most successful bowlers.
New Zealand got plenty of joy from Neil Wagner and Tim Southee's use of bouncers in Perth but Boult has reaped most his success in a nine-year career through sideways movement, mainly through the air into right-handers and away from left-handers.
He said he won't be part of any short-pitched barrage and cast doubt over whether New Zealand will resort to the tactic it employed in the West Australian capital.
"I think we're probably expecting something definitely different in terms of the wicket here, from how it's played over the last few years," Boult said.
"But I don't know - that's (bowling short is) probably going to be something that's just going to be talked about out there.
"But from my point of view, I'm going to be looking to pitch the ball up, swing it around and hopefully get some wickets that way - but we'll see what happens."
Boult also emphasised the importance of breaking down Australia's top order in Melbourne and said he'd "love" to see a lively MCG pitch.
"As a bowling attack we know what we need to do to try and get some early wickets and put some pressure on their middle order," Boult said.
"But that's just going to be one of those things, to see how the wicket reacts and we know our plans well."
AUSSIES TO FIGHT FIRE WITH FIRE
Matthew Wade says Australia's pace cartel will return fire if New Zealand continues with its bodyline-style tactics during the Boxing Day Test.
The left-hander wore the brunt of the visitors' aggressive short-ball approach in Perth and often opted for the unusual tactic of taking the ball on the body, rather than offering a shot.
He expected the barrage to continue at the MCG, but warned it wouldn't be accepted without retribution from the likes of Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins.
"If they keep dishing out short-pitch, I'm sure they'll get a little bit back," Wade said. "That's just the nature of the beast.
"Our bowlers, we work hard and try to pitch the ball up, especially with the new ball.
"The chance of getting a nick when you're getting a touch fuller with a brand new ball is high.
"They did exactly the same in Perth, they pitched it up and gave it a chance, and once the wicket flattened out they went shorter."
Head curator Matt Page conceded on Monday the maligned MCG pitch would not offer the same pace and bounce seen in Perth, but expected more life in the deck than in recent years.
Wade tipped it to offer enough bounce for short-pitched bowling to be effective, but resisted the urge to practice facing it in the nets during the build-up to Boxing Day.
"The way that the fields were set and the way that they bowled (in Perth), I'd expect no different coming in this Test," Wade said.
"Especially (Neil) Wagner, we saw the amount of bouncers and short-pitched bowling that he bowled last Test.
"It's an instinctive kind of way you play short-pitched bowling, so we'll go out there and see which fields they set.
"I like to pull as much as anyone else, but with two back and catchers under your nose, the risk versus reward is a little bit too much."
Australia comfortably won the first Test, but all of the hosts' top six batsmen fell to short balls in the second innings.
Despite being peppered with bouncers in Perth, Wade insisted the series had so far been played in good spirits.
"There's no hard feelings between the teams," he said. "We're both out there trying to do our best for our countries and trying to win a game of Test cricket.
"When you get picked to play Test cricket you expect it's going to be hard and that's exactly what it is against New Zealand."