9 Nov 2015

McCullum holds the key for Black Caps

8:52 am on 9 November 2015

An hour or two of the free-wheeling Brendon McCullum at the crease could be enough to give New Zealand an unlikely shot at victory in the first cricket Test against Australia, according to opener Tom Latham.

Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor leave the Gabba.

Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor leave the Gabba. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Rain rather than resistance has largely kept the Black Caps in the Gabba fixture thus far, with just 53 overs able to be bowled yesterday.

It could still decide the outcome with showers forecast for the final day in Brisbane.

The Black Caps are set to resume on 142 for 3, chasing a mammoth 504 runs for victory, with McCullum not out on four.

While all hope appeared lost for the New Zealand when star No.3 Kane Williamson (59) was trapped in front by Nathan Lyon, Latham said the swashbuckling McCullum still holds the key.

"I think it is important that he goes out and plays his natural game," Latham said. "If he goes out and bats for an hour or two we could certainly be a long way to winning the match."

The Black Caps captain has looked out of practice following the farcical abandoned tour match at Blacktown.

He was out of sorts in his dig of six in New Zealand's first innings of 317.

But few could question McCullum's batting prowess when on song.

He has a Test highest score of 302 and 166 in one day internationals.

His ability to score fast and turn a game on its head just as quickly clearly has Latham excited.

McCullum's highest international Twenty20 score is 123 - but he has also clubbed 158 off 73 balls for Indian Premier League side Kolkata.

"The wicket is reasonably flat and taking a bit of turn to the right hander in the foot marks but the guys are still pretty relaxed," Latham said.

"The environment we have got at the moment, everyone is enjoying their cricket.

"Hopefully we can take that into tomorrow and see where it takes us."

The man McCullum must defy on Monday looms as off-spinner Lyon (two for 33).

The offie again made the difference on a bouncy Gabba deck usually considered a fast bowler's paradise.

Yet the prospect of McCullum teeing off at the Gabba does not faze Lyon.

"He's a world-class player, he's dangerous, but I love challenges and I am looking forward to it, so bring it on," Lyon said.

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