Tom Blundell's fighting century couldn't save New Zealand in the second Test but it could help save a little girl's life.
The New Zealand opener was a rare bright spark for a visiting side thoroughly outplayed by Australia at the MCG.
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The Aussies are one win away from their first perfect Test summer in six years after wrapping up the trans-Tasman trophy with a 247-run flogging of the Kiwis on Sunday.
Nathan Lyon bowled Australia to victory on the fourth day of the second Test, giving them an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series.
Blundell was the only New Zealand batsman to post a half century or more in the second innings, with his sparkling 121 the first Test hundred by a New Zealander in Melbourne.
Even more special than Blundell's milestone, however, was the meaning behind the opener's celebration when he notched the century.
Blundell held the multi-coloured handle of his bat aloft, paying homage to a six-year-old Hollie Beattie, who is fighting cancer in his homeland.
Tom Blundell... amazing - Test 💯 at the MCG using the Helping Hollie bat grip. 🙏— Players Sports (@PlayersSportsNZ) December 29, 2019
Thanks also Neil Wagner and Tim Southee for showing support. 👊
All profits to Hollie: https://t.co/dToZit7b4N #BoxingDayTest #AUSvNZL #cricketnation @BLACKCAPS pic.twitter.com/8VTTPFJpKD
The youngster is suffering from a rare form of cancer called Neuroblastoma, after being diagnosed with the disease in July, 2018.
The grip of the opener’s bat was painted with blue, pink and white colours that were designed by Hollie with the help of Kookaburra and are being sold by Players Sports to help raise money for her cancer fight.
Beattie’s father is a staff member of Players Sports and the company who have been selling the grips in order to raise money for his daughter’s treatment.
A Givealittle page that has been set up for Hollie has also raised more than $33,000.
As well as being an inspiration for Hollie’s family, New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson is hoping Blundell's magnificent innings can inspire the battling Kiwis in Sydney.
In Blundell's previous two Tests - against the West Indies in 2017 - he batted at No.8 and took the gloves as the Kiwis' wicketkeeper.
‘That was truly a fantastic innings’
The 29-year-old's courageous second-innings knock provided a rare highlight for the Black Caps on a nightmare tour of Australia in which they have been outplayed by the hosts.
But Williamson says his team can draw inspiration from Blundell to save face in the third and final Test at the SCG, starting on Friday.
"You look at some small positives and that was truly a fantastic innings," Williamson said.
"(Blundell) led the way and it's important we take a little bit from that."
Blundell played a brilliant innings following an early scare when he would have been out for a duck had the Australians reviewed an lbw decision.
On reaching three figures, he received a rousing ovation from a strong crowd of Kiwi supporters in the Southern Stand.
"It was pretty special hearing your name getting chanted out," Blundell said.
"It just happened to be my day today and I'm pretty pleased with the way I performed."
With his team chasing a world-record victory target of 488, Blundell stood tall when his more-experienced teammates failed against Australia's lethal pace attack.
Williamson went for a duck, while Ross Taylor was out for two.
On his way to reaching three figures, Blundell passed Taylor (108) as the Kiwis' leading run-scorer of the trans-Tasman series despite playing just one Test.
Blundell replaced Jeet Raval who had scored a pair of ones opening in the Black Caps' heavy defeat to Australia in Perth and made just 26 runs in his past five Test innings.
After his maiden Test hundred in 2017, he walked home from the Basin Reserve venue still dressed in his playing whites and carrying a match stump.
But it remains to be seen if he does something similar around inner-city Melbourne.