Pat Cummins orchestrated New Zealand’s downfall in Melbourne with a five-wicket haul, putting Australia in the driver’s seat, as New Zealand were bowled out for 148. With a lead of 319, Australia didn’t opt to enforce the follow-on, batted instead extending it to 347 at Tea, with the openers adding 28 together.
Cummins returned 5-28 on Saturday (December 28), picking up his fifth five-for in Tests, and first against New Zealand. It started early in the day when the pacers were rewarded for their consistency, pace and some extra bounce in overcast conditions. But after Lunch, proceedings sped up drastically as Cummins ended Tom Latham’s resistance. Latham made the most of his reprieve received earlier in the day from Steve Smith and went on to score a fighting half-century, while wickets fell around him, resisting Australia’s pace onslaught. Cummins’s patience of persisting with the line outside off paid off as Latham fell for the bait, going after one in the same region, but undone by the extra bounce, edging to Tim Paine.
James Pattinson, too, was relentless in troubling the batsmen with that corridor of uncertainty outside off and Mitchell Santner couldn’t help himself. A poke and he was caught by Paine. Cummins ended Tim Southee’s jittery stay for his fifth wicket, but Neil Wagner was in no mood to merely surrender. He smashed a couple over the ropes in an entertaining 18-ball 20, but Mitchell Starc returned to clean up Boult as the visitors folded up. To worsen matters, New Zealand lost a review after challenging a leg-before call against David Warner, but the third umpire suspected bat before pad and didn’t even check ball tracking.
It was a matter of just three overs before Australia were rewarded with Cummins and Pattinson bowling beautifully with pace and bounce in the morning, bowling a tad fuller as opposed to yesterday. Cummins, in particular, bowled nagging lines and relentless lengths and kickstarted the procession with the big wicket of Ross Taylor. The veteran batsman, who had successfully overturned an lbw call late last evening, got a leading edge that went to Marnus Labuschagne at third slip before popping out to be pouched by Joe Burns at first. He made it two in two after trapping Henry Nicholls leg before for a duck. He didn’t get his hat-trick but bowled a brilliant spell of 2 for 9 in five overs.
Smith dropped Tom Latham off Pattinson soon after, but the bowler was awarded with BJ Watling’s wicket, who got an edge off the shoulder of the bat from one that was rising on him to slip. He deserved the wicket after having had bowled in good areas and with a lot of heart in that spell. It was after the first hour, however, when Australia handed the ball to Matthew Wade, who conceded 13 runs with two boundaries, that Australia let New Zealand off the hook a tad bit.
Latham and Colin de Grandhomme added a 39-run stand to keep the hosts at bay. Mitchell Starc bowled with a lot of pace, full and posed a few questions in his extended spell. He ended de Grandhomme’s uncomfortable stay in the middle with a beauty, forcing an edge out that flew to David Warner at gully. He would’ve had another ball later when a snorter rose onto Mitchell Santner. The appeal for a caught-behind was turned down by the on-field umpire, but reviews showed something on snicko and hotspot close to the glove. It could’ve been the wrist band, which is technically, part of the glove, but the third umpire gave the benefit of the doubt to the batsman, to cap off the drama-filled morning session.
Brief scores: Australia 467 & 28/0 lead New Zealand 148 (Tom Latham 50; Pat Cummins 5-28, Mitchell Starc 2-30, James Pattinson 3-34) by 347 runs.