Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon struck twice early to put Australia comfortably in the driver’s seat as New Zealand slipped to 27 for 4 at Tea in a chase of 416 to avoid a series whitewash, on Day 4 of the Sydney Test.
Set a revised target of 416, after Australia were imposed a five-run penalty for their batsmen running on the wicket, New Zealand lost both openers to the pace spearhead in his successive overs of the opening spell. Lyon, brought into the attack in the ninth over, also struck in his successive overs to have both Jeet Raval and Glenn Phillips caught behind as New Zealand sank deeper.
Tom Blundell was the first to depart, nailing a square drive of a juicy half-volley but straight to Nathan Lyon at backward point who pulled off a stunning, diving catch too, in a way, make up for the two dropped chances the previous day. New Zealand had barely added a run more to their score when Tom Latham was trapped LBW. The New Zealand stand-in skipper challenged the on-field call but “umpire’s call” on impact meant Marais Erasmus’s decision stood. New Zealand were down to 4 for 2 in no time.
Lyon picked up right from where he had left off in the first innings and had Raval nicking behind to the keeper. However, the batsmen believed he hadn’t edged and was convinced to take a review by Ross Taylor at the other end. He challenged Aleem Dar’s call, only to be proven wrong. Moments later, in an action replay of sorts, Philips was also left embarrassed by the Snickometer that revealed a faint edge. New Zealand lost both batsmen and their reviews on 22.
Taylor, batting on 12 off 33, has the lower order for company in this difficult task even as the whitewash seems more imminent now.
Earlier, Australia declared with a lead of 420 after David Warner raised his 24th Test century shortly into the second session of the day. Unbeaten on 89 at Lunch, the Australian opener marched into the 90s with back to back boundaries off Matt Henry before typically leaping in pure joy as he surpassed current coach Justin Langer’s tally of Test centuries for Australia. Two balls later, Labuschagne raised yet another fifty to add another milestone to his glorious summer.
Australia seemed set on declaring at 450 but when Labuschagne holed out to long-on, going for a glory shot for the team’s cause, Tim Paine declared. However, the home team was docked five runs from their lead of 420 for both Warner and Labuschagne were warned for running on the pitch towards the fag end of their 110-run partnership for the second wicket.
Brief scores: New Zealand 256 and 27/4 (Ross Taylor 12*; Mitchell Starc 2-8, Nathan Lyon 2-4) need 389 more to win with six wickets in hand.