The visitors had another laborious day in the gigantic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) pushing them further behind in the Test match, and by extension, the series. Pat Cummins and James Pattinson ran through the New Zealand batting with Cummins bagging a five-wicket haul, his second of the year.
While the Kiwi bowlers, albeit bowled tight line and length in the first innings, lacked the pace to use the spongy bounce offered by the MCG track, Cummins and Pattinson, two genuinely hit-the-deck pacers, used it to good effect en route dismantling the Kiwi batting line-up. They hit the Kiwi batsmen hard on their bat who often failed to meet the ball by the middle of their stick being rushed by pace and bounce.
Cummins struck twice in his second over of the day. After inducing an outside edge off Ross Taylor’s bat, which was relayed from Marnus Labuschagne at third slip to Joe Burns standing at first slip, Cummins trapped Henry Nicholls in front to get his first lbw victim in 21 months. Pattinson’s striking five overs later sunk New Zealand to 58 for five, with BJ Watling back in the hut as well.
Tom Latham, at the other end brought up a fighting half-century absorbing the pressure for four hours. It was Cummins again who inflicted further blows. He set up Latham by bowling in the corridor of uncertainty ultimately extracting a loose drive from the southpaw which took the outside edge to end up in Tim Paine’s gloves.
Having been bundled out for 148, following the totals of 166 and 171 in Perth, this is the first time New Zealand have been bowled out for less than 200 for three times in a row since 2007. Cummins took five for 28. Already the highest wicket-taker of the year in Tests this year, Cummins took his annual international wickets tally to 99. Pattinson took three accounting for important scalps of Kane Williamson yesterday, Watling and Mitchell Santner. Mitchell Starc dismissed Colin de Grandhomme and Trent Boult as New Zealand were done and dusted inside 55 overs and conceded a lead of 319 runs as a result.
The Aussies elected to bat again and steadily piled on their lead without showing much intent. With little hope of keeping the series alive, the Kiwi pacers still bowled decent lines but again, the lack of pace did not let them have the similar kind of impact which Cummins and Pattinson had left on their batsmen.
Neil Wagner though, continued to bowl with energy, setting up another interesting battle with Steve Smith. Quite unbelievably, Smith once again fell to Wagner’s short-ball ploy pulling one straight to Tim Southee at backward square leg. The former Australian skipper had earlier swatted a Tim Southee bouncer through mid-wicket for four and was in no mood to hang around as much as the first innings.
Wagner has now dismissed Smith in four out of four innings of the series as yet continuing his dominance against the Australian number four. Smith’s departure also marked 200 Test wickets for Wagner who is now the second fastest New Zealand bowler to achieve the feat (46 Tests).
He also removed David Warner earlier in the innings. Like Smith, Warner also fell to Wagner for the second time in the Test, thus establishing the left-arm seamer’s dominance against two of Australia’s best batsmen of their home summer.
Australia ended the day with 137 for four and hence, stretching their lead to 456 with the first innings centurion, Travis Head unbeaten at 12 alongside Matthew Wade at 15.
Australia’s decision to bat again was quite surprising given scattered thunderstorms are predicted for the final day of the Test. Also, Australia had to take the field only for only 55 overs in the first innings. Batting with a run-rate of marginally over three in such circumstances raises some question marks but overall, New Zealand are so far behind in the Test, that even the prospects of drawing the game seems quite far-fetched for them.
To add to their woes, Trent Boult has suffered a fracture to his right-hand which trying to negotiate a Mitchell Starc earlier in the day which has put him out of the remainder of the series.