For the third time in as many innings in their three-match series against Australia, New Zealand’s batting unit folded for a sub-200 total, as Australia ascended into a commanding position on the third day of their Boxing Day encounter at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday.
Having closed out the second day’s play on 44/2 in reply to Australia’s first-innings 467, New Zealand crumbled in the face of another superb display of fast bowling from Pat Cummins, the world’s top-ranked Test bowler.
Cummins’ five-for underpinned the home team’s dominance, as New Zealand were sent packing for 148, conceding a first-innings deficit of 319 runs. Tim Paine, however, refrained from reinserting the visitors. By stumps, Australia had moved to 137/4, with a 456-run lead in the kitty, and a victory firmly in sight.
Cummins was complemented brilliantly by James Pattinson, who had accounted for the all-important wicket of Kane Williamson on the second evening, before adding two more scalps on the third to finish with 3/34, while Mitchell Starc took the other two, winding up with 2/30.
“I was happy with how it all came out today. I feel like I have been bowling well, especially the last couple of games,” said Cummins after his 5-28 haul. “Today it felt like it all came together.”
Paine could have enforced the follow-on, but opted to bat again and Australia raced to 62 without loss before Neil Wagner tempted David Warner into a drive on 38 and he was caught by Blundell.
Marnus Labuschagne was run out for 19 and spinner Mitchell Santner snared opener Joe Burns for 35.
When Steve Smith departed for seven, Wagner’s 200th Test wicket, the Black Caps were on a roll, but Head and Wade steered them to the close, leaving New Zealand with a monumental task.
They need a result to keep the three-Test series alive after being crushed by 296 runs in the opening day-night clash in Perth.
Opener Tom Latham was the only one to offer resistance in their first innings demolition, surviving 144 balls in a dogged 50 before he too succumbed to the Australian fast-bowling machine.
“It was pretty relentless. They didn’t really let us have anything but that’s Test cricket,” said Latham.
SCORES IN BRIEF
AUSTRALIA: First innings 467 and second innings 137 for 4 (Warner 38, Burns 35, Labuschagne 19; Wagner 2-39)
NEW ZEALAND: First innings 148 all out (Latham 50, Wagner 18 not out; Starc 2-30, Cummins 5-28, Pattinson 3-34)