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Blundell hopes to display his patience for 'biggest test' at MCG

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Tom Blundell has a simple plan for opening the innings for New Zealand in the second test against Australia that starts on Thursday at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Watch the ball. Leave the wide ones. Be patient.

“It’s just a mindset shift, being a little more patient outside off stump,” wicketkeeper-batsman Blundell told reporters earlier this week after he was confirmed as a makeshift opening replacement for the out-form Jeet Raval.

“I’ll probably try and be the same but it’s just for the first 30 balls you have to be a little more patient outside off stump.

“If I can last them hopefully I can bat a little more positively.”

Despite being an aggressive, or “positive”, middle-order batsman, patience has actually been the hallmark of Blundell’s international career.

As a wicketkeeper-batsman he has been behind BJ Watling in the pecking order in the test side and only made his limited overs debut in a Twenty20 international in early 2017 when Luke Ronchi was injured.

Blundell made his test debut later that year against West Indies as an injury replacement for Watling.

He completed a dream debut on his home ground at the Basin Reserve with a century and famously walked home from the match still wearing his whites after New Zealand completed an innings and 67-run victory.

Since then he has only appeared in two further Twenty20 internationals and while he was in the World Cup squad earlier this year, he has yet to play a one-day international.

Raval’s horrendous run of form, however, necessitated the change at the top of the order and as the only other specialist batsman in the squad, Blundell was given the nod.

It will be the first time he has opened the innings in his first class career, where he typically has batted in the middle order.

His only other two test appearances were at number eight but he has received backing from his senior team mates after he opened in New Zealand’s warm-up match with a Victoria XI on Sunday and scored a half century.

“Tom’s a quality player - he’s only played a couple of tests but he’s got a lot of first-class experience behind him,” Tom Latham told reporters this week of his new opening partner.

Blundell, however, still recognised the significance of the occasion, with New Zealand making their first appearance in a test at the MCG since 1987.

“It’s a pretty big occasion, but ... I’m trying to put all that to the side and focus on what I do best,” he said.

“It’s going to be a great day, playing in front of 80,000 people and this is probably going to be biggest test match of my life.”

Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Pritha Sarkar