PERTH: Australia quick Mitchell Starc tore through New Zealand’s batting-order shortly before stumps on a dramatic day two, as the hosts gained a stranglehold of the first Test here at the Perth Stadium on Friday.
In reply to Australia’s first innings of 416, New Zealand teetered at 109 for five at the close with veteran Ross Taylor unbeaten on 66 and B.J. Watling yet to score.
A fired up Starc took four wickets, including the prized scalp of Kane Williamson (34) followed by Henry Nicholls (7) and nightwatchman Neil Wagner (0) in successive balls.
A flagging New Zealand had lost both their openers within the first 10 deliveries. Australia, however, will be sweating on the fitness of quick Josh Hazlewood who was forced off the field in the fourth over after pulling up short in his run-up with an apparent left hamstring injury.
Both teams could be without a paceman after debutant New Zealand quick Lockie Ferguson, himself a replacement for injured spearhead Trent Boult, damaged his calf on day one.
Starc lamented Hazlewood’s injury.
“It makes it tough with a bowler down and it certainly was for the Kiwis with Ferguson going down,” he told reporters. “The plus side is we have got them five down tonight.”
After a dour opening two sessions, the day-nighter came alive under lights as Australia’s menacing attack conjured sharp bounce and pace off the pitch.
New Zealand started disastrously when opener Tom Latham fell for a duck on the fifth delivery of the innings after spooning a return catch to a fired up Starc.
It got worse for the tourists when Jeet Raval was bowled by a full Hazlewood delivery in the next over for one.
The match seemingly turned with Hazlewood’s injury and Australia captain Tim Paine had limited options with his team lacking an all-rounder. Part-timer Matthew Wade was handed the ball but had little success.
Williamson and Taylor took advantage during a determined 76-run partnership until New Zealands captain fell to a spectacular one-handed, diving catch by Steve Smith at second slip.
The dismissal re-established Australia’s control after they posted a impressive first-innings total stretching 146.2 overs.
The hosts batted sedately for much of the opening two sessions to deflate New Zealand and ensure they had use of prime bowling conditions under lights.
Marnus Labuschagne (143) and Travis Head (56) combined in a 76-run partnership to wrest control of the contest.
South Africa-born Labuschagne fell seven runs short of becoming the third Test batsman to notch three consecutive scores of over 150.
New Zealand’s tireless quicks Neil Wagner and Tim Southee claimed four wickets apiece.
“We knew it was going to be tough under lights with the new ball,” Southee said. “Being five down is probably a couple too many but there is a lot of belief in the side.”
Oppressive conditions continued on day two with the temperature reaching 40 degrees Celsius. Smoke from a bushfire raging at nearby Belmont Racecourse, about 1km behind Perth Stadium, wafted into the 60,000-seat arena in the first session but did not appear to affect players or spectators.
New Zealand have only won one Test in Australia since their sole series triumph across the Tasman Sea in 1985-86.
AUSTRALIA (1st Innings, overnight 248-4):
D. Warner c and b Wagner 43
J. Burns lbw b de Grandhomme 9
M. Labuschagne b Wagner 143
S. Smith c Southee b Wagner 43
M. Wade b Southee 12
T. Head c Santner b Southee 56
T. Paine c Watling b Southee 39
P. Cummins b Raval 20
M. Starc c Williamson b Southee 30
N. Lyon c de Grandhomme b Wagner 8
J. Hazlewood not out 0
EXTRAS (B-2, LB-1, NB-2, W-8) 13
TOTAL (all out, 146.2 overs) 416
FALL OF WKTS: 1-40, 2-75, 3-207, 4-225, 5-301, 6-325 , 7-363, 8-408, 9-416
BOWLING: Southee 30.2-7-93-4 (1w); Ferguson 11-1-47-0 (1w); Wagner 37-7-92-4 (1w); de Grandhomme 22-8-37-1 (2nb); Santner 33-5-111-0; Raval 13-1-33-1
NEW ZEALAND (1st Innings):
J. Raval b Hazlewood 1
T. Latham c and b Starc 0
K. Williamson c Smith b Starc 34
R. Taylor not out 66
H. Nicholls c Paine b Starc 7
N. Wagner b Starc 0
B.J. Watling not out 0
EXTRAS (B-1) 1
TOTAL (for five wkts, 32 overs) 109
FALL OF WKTS: 1-1, 2-1, 3-77, 4-97, 5-97
BOWLING (to-date): Starc 11-1-31-4; Hazlewood 1.2-1-0-1; Cummins 10.4-2-34-0; Wade 2-0-8-0; Lyon 7-0-35-0
STILL TO BAT: Colin de Grandhomme, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Lockie Ferguson, Neil Wagner
Published in Dawn, December 14th, 2019