Australia v New Zealand – Third Test: Day 1 at the SCG

“The Cricketer”
by Kate Birrell

 

With the Kiwis playing for pride in the third and final Test of the Trans-Tasman series, having already lost the series, it was evident before a ball was bowled that they were really ‘up against it’.

 

A virus wreaked havoc as Mitchell Santner, Henry Nicholls and captain Kane Williamson were forced to withdraw from the team, while Trent Boult was already sidelined with injury.

 

But perhaps the most baffling omission was that of Tim Southee. Stories abounded that he was dropped, or rested, or simply excluded from the team for the reason that he had shouldered too much of a burden in recent times.

 

Whatever the reason, Southee’s omission was baffling given that a depleted New Zealand team already missed its other opening bowler, and could have done with Southee’s experience.

 

Tom Latham took over the captaincy, with Glenn Phillips named to debut while Jeet Raval, Todd Astle, Will Somerville and Matt Henry were recalled.

 

Interestingly, Somerville had played first-class cricket for NSW at the SCG, and had played with and against various players from the Australian team.

 

Although the Kiwis have disappointingly not lived up to their reputation as the second-ranked team in the world, another strong crowd proved that interest in the series had not wavered by any means.

 

After the Melbourne faithful turned up in droves to watch the Kiwis play a Test at the MCG for the first time in 32 years, the Sydney faithful has done likewise after New Zealand’s most recent Test appearance at the SCG was 34 years ago.

 

After Australian skipper Tim Paine won the toss and chose to bat, the Kiwis looked vastly different as the new opening bowling partnership comprised Matt Henry and Colin de Grandhomme. To their credit, they tried hard early on, although lacking penetration.

 

A change of ends for de Grandhomme paid dividends as Joe Burns was squared up with the first ball of his second spell, and edged a catch to first slip as the match was an hour old.

 

Having struggled repeatedly since scoring 97 in the first Test against Pakistan several weeks ago, Burns had squandered a golden chance to return to form against a second-string attack.

 

But with the big guns of David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne at the wicket while Steve Smith was still to come, the Kiwis were yet to make any real inroads.

 

The score didn’t stay 1-39 for long, as Labuschagne leg-glanced his second delivery to the boundary and then glided his fourth delivery to deep mid wicket for four more.

 

New Zealand received further setbacks as Henry and Somerville suffered finger injuries and were forced to spend time off the field.

 

The Australians were well set as the score was 1-95 at lunch, but the Test took a dramatic turn just three balls after play resumed.

 

The left-armer Wagner came around the wicket and speared the ball wide of Warner’s leg stump, only for the left-hander to steer a catch to leg gully. Out for 45, and continuing Warner’s recent habit of making starts without converting them into big scores.

 

The next 46 minutes produced one of the most bizarre periods of the series as Smith – rated alongside India’s Virat Kohli as the top two batsmen in the world – took 39 balls to open his account.

 

After Smith belatedly relieved the pressure with a few boundaries, Labuschagne used his feet and lofted Somerville for 6.

 

Although not in peak form, Smith kept the 12th man busy as the former Australian captain repeatedly changed his gloves.

 

With Labuschagne having scored regular centuries already this season, he reached 60 when TV commentator Simon Katich remarked: ‘Big hundreds. He’s on his way again today.’

 

So it proved. On 99, Labuschagne produced another leg glance to the boundary. What has been distinctive about Labuschagne is that many of his runs have come on the onside, both behind and in front of square.

 

Desperation or foolishness (or both) was evident as the Kiwis used the DRS when Labuschagne was on 106, with replays showing there was no chance that an appeal for lbw should be upheld.

 

Smith advanced to 63 before he became the second batsman to edge de Grandhomme to Ross Taylor at first slip. Thus ended a 156-run third wicket stand, with the second new ball just 19 deliveries old.

 

It was not surprising that Wagner returned to the bowling crease to continue his rivalry with Matthew Wade, but the left-handed batsman was in no mood to let the ball hit his body this time.

 

Wade fiercely pulled two fours and a six in the 87th over of the day, and even more impressive was that the combatants bumped fists in a sign of mutual respect at the end of the over. Wagner obviously didn’t get too flustered, as he promptly signed autographs while fielding on the boundary.

 

And so Australia finished the day at 3-283, with Labuschagne on 130 and Wade on 22.

 

There were few highlights for the Kiwis, although Wagner was economical for the most part as he put in another wholehearted effort despite being out of the attack for a prolonged period at one stage. Leg-spinner Astle toiled away honestly, but didn’t look like posing any real threat.

 

Despite the occasional play-and-miss and mistimed shot from an Australian batsman, the Kiwi bowlers lacked bite and penetration. It was not until the 82nd over that someone other than Wagner delivered a maiden over.

 

Will the Australians get bowled out, or amass a huge score and then declare?

 

Tune in to day two to find out.

 

 

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About Liam Hauser

A Queenslander through and through, Liam went out of his comfort zone as he had a thoroughly worthwhile time in Tumut and Gundagai from 2008 to 2016 before enjoying a year in Gunnedah. His strongest sporting interests are State of Origin, Sheffield Shield, Test cricket and the NRL. His sporting CV doesn’t have many highlights, although he once top-scored in a warehouse cricket match with 54 not out at number 10, and shared in an unbroken last wicket stand of 83 with the number 11 who scored an undefeated 52. Liam has written books including State of Origin 35 Years, A Century of Cricket Tests, A History of Test Cricket, The Immortals of Australian Cricket, The Immortals of Australian Rugby League, and The Great Grand Finals: Rugby League's Greatest Contests. Also a huge fan of Electric Light Orchestra.

Comments

  1. Ian Hauser says

    The theatre of Wagner v Wade continues to entertain – two wholehearted players really going at it and acknowledging each other along the way.

    Given the circumstances at the start of play, I feared a stumps score of about 3/350+, so perhaps the Kiwis did ok today. An honest effort but hardly threatening. A few balls were already keeping a bit low, so any score above 400 will be a winner.

    The Southee situation is totally bewildering.

  2. Thanks for this report Liam.

    Good to have you on the Almanac site.

    In response to your other comment, you are most welcome to write a report each day. If we get more than one report, so be it. There is always variety.

    Cheers
    JTH

  3. Luke Reynolds says

    What a depleted NZ, probably 5 of their best 7 players missing.

    Despite their very average showing in this series, the crowds in attendance show the Kiwis are worthy of playing the Boxing Day and New Years Tests. Hopefully they actually play some lead up games next time!

  4. John Butler says

    Nice work Liam.

    Watching that Kiwi opening attack brought back memories of the days when the Indians used a couple of batsmen to take the shine off the ball, so the spinners could get to work. Sadly for NZ, they don’t have a Bishen Bedi.

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