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AUS Vs NZ: New Zealand Start firmly after Labuschagne’s Double

Marnus Labuschagne headlined the second day of the Sydney Test with a spectacular maiden Test double century. New Zealand’s openers, however, staged a resolute fightback to keep Australia at bay, going to stumps unbeaten with 63 on the board, trailing Australia’s 454 by 391 on Saturday (January 4).

The Australian pacers and Nathan Lyon created half-chances, but Australia couldn’t breach their defenses. Australian pacers’ probing lines upfront forced a quiet start from Tom Blundell and Tom Latham. Blundell took 21 deliveries to get off the mark, failing to rotate the strike as much as he would’ve liked, while Latham kept the scoreboard ticking. The left-handed opener left most deliveries outside off but poked his bat at one uncertainly as Australia thought they got an edge.

Aleem Dar thought otherwise, and Australia lost their review when the third umpire didn’t find enough evidence to overturn the decision. Lyon didn’t get much bounce and was negotiated without the batsmen trying anything fancy. They were content playing straight and seeing through the allotted overs for the day. It turned out to be a wicketless final session with Blundell unbeaten on 34, while Latham was not out on 26.

New Zealand revived themselves in the middle session with a clump of wickets as Australia batted themselves into a strong position on the back of Labuschagne’s knock. While the bulk of his runs came on the on-side on the opening day of the Test, once New Zealand’s bowlers changed their lines to him, he switched to the offside with runs coming all over the park. Tim Paine and Labuschagne added 79 runs together before New Zealand struck back with quick wickets on a pitch that was beginning to play tricks as Australia lost 7 for 171. Labuschagne belted 19 fours and a six in his innings.

Paine was undone by a peach from Colin de Grandhomme that nipped back just a little to knock over the Australian captain’s stumps. Labuschagne fell a couple of overs later handing a return catch to Todd Astle to the leg-break that was tossed up. The batsman committed to the shot too early and ended up lobbing it back to the bowler. J

James Pattinson, in bizarre fashion, had the ball drop onto his stumps after it hit him on the shoulder, bounced off his gloves and onto the stumps. Pat Cummins perished to an attempted flick that short leg pouched. Nathan Lyon and Mitchell Starc added 24 crucial runs for the final wicket and took Australia past the 450- run mark. Wagner picked his third wicket when he castled Starc, while de Grandhomme too finished with as many.

New Zealand wasted their only remaining review against Paine earlier, who they thought they had trapped leg before, only to find there was only bat involved. However, they managed to get Travis Head and Matthew Wade. Somerville struck in the first over of play, sending back Wade, who had counterattacked with a quickfire cameo on the opening day, with the bowler breaching the batsman’s defenses to pick up his maiden Test wicket at the SCG.

They were further dealt another setback with confirmation for Matt Henry’s broken thumb. Henry who had been struck by a drive from Joe Burns in the opening session of the Test, left the field for treatment before returning to bowl. Henry is the third New Zealand pace bowler to be injured on their tour of Australia after Lockie Ferguson and Trent Boult, who suffered a calf strain and a broken hand respectively. Yet, he bowled six overs in the morning session and got Head for 10, out of a top-edge to the wicketkeeper.

Brief scores: Australia 454 (David Warner 45, Marnus Labuschagne 215, Steve Smith 65; Colin de Grandhomme 3-78, Neil Wagner 3-66, Todd Astle 2-111) lead New Zealand 63/0 (Tom Blundell 34*, Tom Latham 26*) by 391 runs.

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