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Second Test to mark a sombre anniversary for rebuilding Christchurch

Cricket

Australia hope Christchurch will host their coronation as the No.1 Test side in the world, while New Zealand are keen to celebrate Brendon McCullum’s career.

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But there will be a sense of sombre about the second trans-Tasman Test that starts on Saturday.

Australia haven’t played a cricket match in the city since 2010, when David Warner and Steve Smith featured in a Twenty20 epic that ended in a super over.

That contest was at Lancaster Park, now one of many structures in ruin.

The 2011 earthquake devastated the city, causing severe damage and killing 185 people.

Lancaster Park’s surface was scarred by liquefaction while its Hadlee Stand was demolished in 2012, some 17 years after it was opened and 12 years after Richard was knighted.

Test cricket returned to the city in December 2014, at redeveloped Hagley Oval.

It was also the scene of the 2015 World Cup opener featuring NZ and Sri Lanka.

Both events were a source of pride for many residents as the ground is one of few ‘anchor projects’ completed since the destructive quake five years ago.

“We took a real hit. We haven’t had international cricket for quite a while,” Richard Hadlee told ESPNcricinfo in 2014.

“Horrendous things happened a few years ago… it’s a significant milestone but the rebuild will take about 20 years in total to get it where we want to.”

The upcoming contest carries added importance as McCullum’s final Test.

Days one and two are already sold out.

But it will also be a moving occasion for far more sobering reasons.

The five-year anniversary of one of the nation’s most deadly natural disasters will fall on day three of the Test.

McCullum, an adopted local, will join born-and-bred Canterburians Tom Latham, Corey Anderson and Henry Nicholls plus millions of other New Zealanders in remembrance.

McCullum was in India for the World Cup when the quake struck in 2011 but his wife Ellissa and two children were back home.

For approximately an hour, McCullum was unable to make contact with them.

“We got off very lightly. I’m under no illusions about that,” McCullum told ESPNcricinfo earlier this summer.

“You can’t compare what I went through to others.”

The side’s next World Cup pool game was against Australia.

The trans-Tasman rivals wore black armbands and stood shoulder to shoulder, forming a circle on the Nagpur field during a minute’s silence.

“It has been difficult,” then-captain Dan Vettori said at the time.

“But I suppose when we put it into perspective, it’s nothing compared to what the people back home in Christchurch and all over New Zealand are going through.

“The whole country is hurting immensely and the team feels exactly the same way.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone in the Canterbury community.”

The city has been rebuilding since but it is a slow process.

Both sides are staying in the same hotel – the first to be built in the city after the quake and subject to tougher new building standards.

The 185 Empty White Chairs memorial stands nearby, a tribute to those who died in 2011.

Last weekend provided a more confronting reminder to all Christchurch residents – a magnitude 5.7 earthquake that resulted in cliffs collapsing.

Minor aftershocks continue but no serious injuries were reported and the city’s infrastructure mostly held up, including Hagley Oval and the team hotel.

“You never want to hear those things. Hopefully all the people of Christchurch are ok,” Australia skipper Steve Smith said.

-AAP

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