Sydney, Jan 3 (GCSports) Marnus Labuschagne continued his rich form of the Australian summer, bringing up his fourth hundred in the last five Tests to put a new-look New Zealand attack to the sword here.
He finished the day on 130 not out, adding 156 for the third wicket with Steve Smith, carrying Australia to a formidable 283/3 on Friday, the first day of the third Test.
At stumps, he had Matthew Wade for company on 22 not out, as the visiting New Zealand side faced the prospect of chasing another tall total.
Will a flu leaving them severely depleted, New Zealand were forced to make five changesto the side that conceded the series 2-0 in Melbourne: Glenn Phillips made his debut,William Somerville and Todd Astle came in as the spinners, quick Matt Henry replaced Tim Southee (who was rested for workload management), and Jeet Raval returned. Tom Latham walked out for the toss in place of the ill Kane Williamson, but it was Tim Paine who won the toss and chose to bat, as Australia quickly went on the ascendancy.
The makeshift new-ball pair of Henry and Colin de Grandhomme couldn’t hit their lengths consistently and capitalise on the openers’ early discomfort against the slight movement on offer. However, when they did manage to pitch it up, they were rewarded, as de Grandhomme showed with an out-swinger to Joe Burns, who edged it to slip, an ICC report said.
The in-form David Warner and Labuschagne took them further unscathed to lunch at 95/1, going at a decent click, before the left-handed opener was denied a half-century. Neil Wagner’s short ball worked again in the first over of the second session, Warner (45) caught looking to pull. It was the fourth time in the series Wagner had got Warner.
By then, Labuschagne was well settled. Fluent against both spin and pace, the No.3 showed good foot movement and shot selection.
Meanwhile, Smith began defensively, especially against Wagner, taking 39 balls to get his first runs – to loud cheers from the crowd, a smile from the batsman and a friendly pat on the back from the bowler. A boundary against Somerville over mid-wicket allowed him to break the shackles, and while he still had his troubles with Wagner, the runs flowed quickly thereafter.
Having gone to tea at 182/2, the duo only continued the punishment in the final session. Labuschagne’s hundred came with a fine-leg boundary off de Grandhomme.
Taking the new ball finally did the trick for New Zealand in the 84th over of the day, with Smith edging to Ross Taylor at slip off another out-swinger from de Grandhomme. While he made a valuable 63, he wasn’t happy at missing out on a three-figure score.
With Wade racing to 22 off 30 balls in the final overs, including a six off Wagner in an over that leaked 14, and Labuschagne firm, Latham will have plenty to think about after his first day with the top job.