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AUS Vs NZ: Labuschagne, Smith put Australia in control

Australia continued to boss proceedings in Sydney as Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith effectively kept New Zealand at bay in the second session. They went to Tea on 182 for 2 with Labuschagne headlining the session with an unbeaten 73 on Friday (January 3).

New Zealand did well to keep Australia in check in the first hour after Lunch as Warner failed to convert his start. It was the short ball once again from Neil Wagner that undid the opener, who didn’t have any control of the pull and drags it to leg-gully, who obliged.

Steve Smith and Labuschagne thereafter patiently kept the bowlers at bay. Smith began slowly, taking 39 balls and 43 minutes for his first run, on quite a slow pitch where the pair were made to work hard for their runs. But soon enough, runs began to flow off their bats.

Labuschagne, particularly, was disciplined against the deliveries outside off, used his feet well against the spinners – who got quite a bit of turn – and negated the short balls deftly. He reached his 8th Test fifty and together with Smith, in their 87-run, association, the pair was unbeaten for the third wicket.

New Zealand were not very disciplined with the ball, barring Wagner. While left-armer kept things tight and build the pressure at one end, he didn’t find a company at the other. He conceded just 19 runs in 13 overs, while the others were taken for runs, much like in the opening session.

Matt Henry got some extra bounce first up, but he failed to bowl consistently at the stumps, much like the others, letting the Australian batsmen get a move on as the opening pair made a steady start. David Warner and Joe Burns added 39 runs until a change in ends for Colin de Grandhomme did the trick for New Zealand.

A bit of late seam movement had Burns squared up. He got the edge that was pouched by Ross Taylor at slip. Although de Grandhomme got the only wicket in the session, he leaked runs in his eight overs, conceding 39 runs. Wagner attacked the batsmen with his usual barrage of short-pitched deliveries.

He almost even got Warner off a pull that the batsman had no control over. But the top-edge fell just short of Will Somerville at fine leg, who misjudged the catch. Labuschagne and Warner thereafter joined hands to stitch a swift fifty-run stand to see the session through.

New Zealand, earlier, were forced to make as many as five changes to their XI owing to the illness that struck the visitors’ camp in the lead-up to the Test. Regular skipper Kane Williamson and Henry Nicholls were in with a chance to play until the morning but were forced out eventually.

They handed Glenn Philips his maiden Test cap while recalling dropped opener Jeet Raval. Tim Southee missed out, Mitchell Santner was forced out with illness and Trent Boult’s injury meant inclusions of Matt Henry, Todd Astle, and Will Somerville, who returned to his home ground, having played several seasons for New South Wales earlier.

Brief scores: Australia 182/2 (Marnus Labuschagne 73*, David Warner 45, Steve Smith 42*; Colin de Grandhomme 1-48, Neil Wagner 1-19) vs New Zealand.

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