- Publish Date
- Wednesday, 20 June 2018, 7:47PM
New Zealand's first Boxing Day test in 32 years at the Melbourne Cricket Ground has been confirmed for the 2019-20 summer.
The news comes with the release of the International Cricket Council's Future Tours Programme which governs the cricketing schedule through to 2023.
Playing at the MCG is one of the sport's most hallowed traditions. An entire New Zealand generation of cricketers – and fans – has gone without until now.
On the last occasion, in 1987, the test finished in a draw which went down to the final overs as Sir Richard Hadlee and Danny Morrison duelled with Craig McDermott and Mike Whitney, the hosts' last batting pair.
Whitney played out the final over from Hadlee after McDermott survived a confident lbw appeal from Morrison, eight balls from the end.
It remains a cult moment in the country's cricketing history.
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson was thrilled with the prospect of travelling across the Tasman.
"It's hard to go past the three-match test series in Australia next year as a highlight. I think all New Zealanders will have a circle around that one."
The idea of New Zealand's return to a MCG test was first mooted in 2015 when the West Indies' were trounced by 177 runs and brought in a crowd of 127,000, the lowest tally in the last 22 tests at the venue.
The Black Caps next tour to Australia had been penciled in for the 2020-21 summer, but was brought forward.
There can be few doubts New Zealand have earned the right to play at the MCG.
They let Australia get away on them in the first innings at Brisbane during the last series in 2015, before gaining parity in the draw at Perth and suffering a tight loss in the day-night fixture at Adelaide.
In addition to 1987, New Zealand has played tests at the MCG in 1973 and 1980 for a loss and draw respectively, and 26 one-day internationals, including their defeat to Australia in the 2015 World Cup final.
The only possible downside is that NZC sacrifice a potential opportunity to earn revenue from fixtures at home, but that should be more than matched by the interest an MCG test will generate.
The entire 2019-20 summer provides a potential highlight for New Zealand from the FTP programme, with visits from England (two tests and five T20s), India (two tests, three ODIs and five T20s) and Australia (three T20s).
The new one-day international qualification league and world test championship were other features of the FTP document.
The test arrangement will culminate in a final at Lord's in June 2021 with the points allocation system to be confirmed at a later date.
The nine top-ranked sides will participate in the inaugural edition, which will run from July 15, 2019 to April 30, 2021.
The sides will play six series in the two-year cycle on a home-and-away basis against mutually selected opponents. The two top-ranked sides progress to the final.
The Black Caps' test championship debut is against Sri Lanka next August.
The ODI system will provide automatic World Cup qualification for the top eight ranked sides.
The 12 test-playing nations and the Netherlands will participate in the 13-team league, which will run from May 1, 2020 to March 31, 2022.
All sides will play eight series over a two-year cycle on a home-and-away basis against agreed opponents.
NZC chief executive David White said the new FTP brought more relevance and context into test and ODI cricket.
"We can farewell what used to be known as neutral games, and introduce interest into every fixture, no matter which side is playing.
"In a rapidly-evolving world, this will help increase engagement in cricket and grow the game both locally and globally."
New Zealand next play tests away against Pakistan in October-November before hosting visits from Sri Lanka, India, and Bangladesh next summer.
This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission.