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New Zealand's Blundell to replace Raval in Boxing Day test

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Reserve batsman Tom Blundell has been confirmed to replace the out-of-form Jeet Raval at the top of New Zealand’s batting order for the Boxing Day test against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Blundell opened the batting for New Zealand on Sunday in a warmup match against a Victoria state XI and made a timely unbeaten half-century before retiring.

Raval was jettisoned after twin failures in the 296-run defeat to Tim Paine’s Australia in the series-opener in Perth, following a poor home series against England.

“I feel like I can do a good job wherever,” two-test wicketkeeper batsman Blundell told reporters in Melbourne.

“This game I’ve been given the opportunity to open, so I’m really looking forward to Boxing Day.”

Blundell will play his first test since replacing injured regular wicketkeeper BJ Watling during the 2017 home series against West Indies.

Blundell batted at number eight in his three test innings, which included a century on debut in Wellington.

“I’ll probably try to still bat the same,” he said of his promotion.

“It’s just the first 30 balls I’ll just have to be a bit more patient outside the off-stump, and if I can last those 30 balls, then hopefully I can bat a bit more positively.”

New Zealand pace spearhead Trent Boult bowled for Victoria in the practice match on Sunday as he looked to prove his fitness for the second test from Thursday.

Boult missed the first test in Perth with a rib injury but is expected to line up at the MCG in a major boost for Kane Williamson’s team as they look to level the three-match series.

Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Sam Holmes