Australia in firm control despite late New Zealand charge

Sports Sunday 15/December/2019 09:28 AM
By: Times News Service
Australia in firm control despite late New Zealand charge

Perth: New Zealand made an impressive, late fightback with five wickets in the final session, but Australia still maintained control over the Test, leading with 417 runs at end of day three.

Matthew Wade (8*) ended the day alongside Pat Cummins (1*) with Australia on 167/6 in their second innings, having lost their last five wickets for 29 runs.

Earlier, Ross Taylor and BJ Watling began the day at 109/5, still trailing by 307 runs, and surviving the first five overs of the day despite a few close calls. They were lucky to get through a straightforward run-out chance, when Tim Paine fluffed an easy opportunity while collecting a throw from the deep.

With the deficit shrinking to less than 300, Watling was the first one to depart, chopping one onto his own stumps. Ross Taylor exited not long after for 80, edging one behind off Lyon, but Colin de Grandhomme expressed his free-flowing self at the other end, not shying in pulling anything short to the leg-side fence. However, a Starc bumper crept on him sharply, and carried an edge to Smith at second slip. It ended de Grandhomme’s quick 21-ball 23, and gave Starc his five-wicket haul, leaving the Kiwis at 155/8.

Despite the absence of Josh Hazlewood, Australia’s bowlers continued to exert pressure on the lower order. Marnus Labuschagne and Nathan Lyon then cleaned up the rest of the two wickets in back-to-back overs, with the injured Lockie Ferguson ending as the lone unbeaten batsman. The Kiwis lost their last five wickets for just 46 runs.

David Warner and Joe Burns began the second innings with a healthy lead of 250 in their kitty. Warner soon passed Sir Donald Bradman’s Test tally of 6996 runs, and became the 12th Australian to cross 7000 Test runs. However, a Tim Southee bouncer got the better of him, with a leading edge easily landing in mid-off’s hands.

Marnus Labuschagne and Joe Burns then combined for a steady partnership worth 87 runs, with Labuschagne crossing 1000 Test runs this year, the only batsman, thus far, to do so. The lead had almost trickled past 400, when Wagner’s angle from round the wicket clicked. He darted a short one into Labuschagne, and forced him to play at the ball coming in. The batsman pulled it straight to short mid-wicket, ending his stay on 50.

After wafting at deliveries on the leg stump from Wagner upon arrival, Steve Smith got going with back-to-back fours off Southee, one an expansive drive through covers, and the next one a wrist-rolled straight drive that was carved past the bowler.

Joe Burns ticked past his fifty, but with the bowlers increasingly employing the short ball as twilight set in, he couldn't continue for long. On 53, he fended another short one, off Southee, to gully.

Against Wagner, Smith tried to create room and play cross-batted, but could not keep down a short one by the left-armer on the leg-stump, gifting a catch to square leg. From 131/1, Australia slipped to 154/4.

As stumps drew closer, New Zealand relied more on their angling short-pitched deliveries. Wade got his first runs with a pull off Southee, but Travis Head, at the other end, looked edgy against deliveries directed on his body from the get go. Off the final delivery of the 52nd over, Southee made Head glance at a leg-stump delivery, which resulted in an easy pouch to de Grandhomme at leg gully.

Tim Paine returned for a second-ball duck, but Pat Cummins, at No.8, hung around with Wade, who himself survived a close inside edge in the final over, but ensured Australia no more wickets till close of play.