Trent Boult stares down Travis Head (image: Getty)
The Black Caps might be struggling on the Melbourne Cricket Ground field as the Boxing Day test against Australia moves into its third day, but the large contingent of New Zealand fans are still making the most of the historic occasion.
After being put in to bat, the Australians have reached a formidable first innings total of 431/5, with wicketkeeper Travis Head top scoring with 98*. It means that the Black Caps will face a big challenge to avoid defeat in their first test match at the iconic MCG in 32 years.
It’s estimated around 16,000 kiwis have crossed the Tasman to attend the game, with their numbers being bolstered by the thousands of New Zealanders that now call Australia home. It meant that there was a non-Ashes record first day crowd of 80,473. However, the only thing the NZ contingent had to cheer about in the first session of day two was a stunning catch by Henry Nicholls to remove Steve Smith for 85 off the bowling of Neil Wagner.
That made the score 284/5 and gave a glimmer of hope that the Black Caps could roll the home side and get in to start getting a decent total of their own. Unfortunately, Travis Head and Tim Paine had other ideas, putting on 147 runs for the sixth wicket and gradually wrestling the game away by the tea break.
Out in the sunshine, the crowd didn’t seem to mind too much as the temperature got up to a pleasant 27 degrees. It’s expected to get a lot hotter in the next few days though, with 45 degrees forecast for Sunday.
The highlight of the test so far was the first over dismissal of Australian opener Joe Burns, who was clean bowled by Ngāti Porou’s Trent Boult. It was exactly the start the Black Caps needed, but they couldn’t capitalise on the early wicket, with the Australians digging in to reach 247/4 by stumps on the first day.
The resumption was more of the same, disciplined batting by the home team. Mitchell Santner so far has failed to make any impression with the ball, struggling to get any turn on a slow wicket and leaving the Australian batsmen with little to deal with except working the ball away for yet more runs. Head just missed out on securing his second test century before the tea break, going in on an unbeaten 98, while Paine reached 77 not out.
By tea the Australians had the game firmly in control, meaning that the Black Caps will be yet again facing another uphill battle to stay alive in the series.
NZ v Australia, second test (tea second day):
Australia first innings: 431/5 (T Head 98*, S Smith 85, T Paine 77* )