After a record defeat against Australia in last match, a Boxing Day Test awaits

Melbourne: New Zealand are hopeful of having pace spearhead Trent Boult back to help halt a rampant Australia in the Black Caps' first Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in more than 30 years.

The veteran, suffering a side strain, was badly missed during the opening Test in Perth, when the visitors were thrashed by 296 runs in stifling conditions.

But he has been toiling in the nets and expects to be ready for a rare appearance by his country on one of the best-known dates of the cricket calendar.

"I want to really embrace it and appreciate that stage for what it is," the left-armer told reporters of the special atmosphere that comes with a Boxing Day Test in the 100,000-capacity arena.

"This is the stage that a lot of people dream of being on so to get this opportunity in my career, it's definitely something that I'm looking forward to.

"If I can tick all the right boxes with my body and get myself fit, then I can't wait to get out there," he added. A big crowd is expected with New Zealand fans snapping up thousands of tickets to witness the December 26 appearance by their team at one of cricket's most famous grounds.

Extra flights were reportedly scheduled between Auckland and Melbourne to cater for demand. The last time New Zealand faced Australia in a Boxing Day Test was 1987, before many of the current squad were born, with the home side holding on for a draw despite blistering bowling from legendary quick Richard Hadlee.

What sort of wicket they find on Thursday is the great unknown.

Only a fortnight ago, play was abandoned during a domestic Sheffield Shield game at the ground due to a dangerous pitch, with erratic bounce seeing balls rise sharply and unexpectedly to pummel the batsmen. Ground curator Matt Page has since been working to prepare a new pitch.

Australia squad: David Warner, Joe Burns, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Matthew Wade, Travis Head, Tim Paine (capt), Pat Cummins, Mitch Starc, Nathan Lyon, James Pattinson, Michael Neser, Peter Siddle

New Zealand: Todd Astle, Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Lockie Ferguson, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Jeet Raval, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, BJ Watling, Neil Wagner, Kane Williamson

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