Lunch Australia 2 for 67 v New Zealand
After waiting 32 years for another chance to play at the MCG on Boxing Day, New Zealand had a dream start with a wicket in the first over and then removed David Warner fifteen minutes before lunch to keep the opening session even after Australia had been inserted.
Following a build-up dominated by talk of the pitch – after the abandonment of the Sheffield Shield match earlier this month – Kane Williamson looked at the thick covering of grass, allied to an overcast morning, and decided to give his bowlers first use, something of a gamble with the unknown nature of the surface and hot weather forecast later in the game.
Four balls in and the returning Trent Boult swung one back between a flat-footed drive of Joe Burns to take middle stump and send the masses of New Zealand supporters – who have sold out flights across the Tasman in recent days – into raptures with a glimmer of being to break through Australia’s in-form top order when Marnus Labuschagne was beaten on the drive by his first two deliveries.
Boult and Tim Southee were excellent with the new ball but could not extract another breakthrough in their opening spells despite creating a number of uneasy moments for the batsmen. Both Warner and Labuschagne made a concerted effort to get onto the front foot to nullify the movement on a surface that offered encouragement for the seamers.
It was an opening session were the side put into bat will have been happy to give it to the bowling team in terms of run rate for the trade-off of preserving wickets. Warner, who took a painful blow on the left thumb three days before the Test, worked hard to line-up the early swing and played a couple of strong punch-drives. He then had a tussle with Colin de Grandhomme who beat him twice in a row before being dispatched through the covers in the next over.
When Boult returned for a second spell he got a delivery to spit off a good length at Warner, putting the damaged thumb in danger again, and in the following over against Neil Wagner he pushed out at a full delivery and sent a thick edge to second slip where Southee held onto a superb one-handed catch.
Labuschagne found scoring hard work, reaching lunch on 23 off 72 balls, while Steven Smith was quickly greeted by the short-ball strategy that worked well against him in Perth and by the break had already started to notch up blows to the body from Wagner
Australia 1 David Warner, 2 Joe Burns, 3 Marnus Labuschagne, 4 Steven Smith, 5 Matthew Wade, 6 Travis Head, 7 Tim Paine (capt & wk), 8 James Pattinson, 9 Pat Cummins, 10 Mitchell Starc, 11 Nathan Lyon
New Zealand 1 Tom Latham, 2 Tom Blundell, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Henry Nicholls, 6 BJ Watling (wk), 7 Colin de Grandhomme, 8 Mitchell Santner, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Neil Wagner, 11 Trent Boult