Australia sniff series victory over New Zealand at Boxing Day test
MELBOURNE – Australia marched to the brink of a dominant series victory over New Zealand on Saturday after dismissing the visitors cheaply and extending their lead to 456 runs on day three of the Boxing Day test.
Leading 1-0 after routing the Black Caps in the Perth opener, captain Tim Paine's side pushed to 137 for four in their second innings at stumps after skittling the tourists out for 148 in a firestorm of pace bowling at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Replying to Australia's first innings 467, New Zealand were bowled out 120 runs short of forcing the hosts to bat again, but Paine sent his batsmen back out to pile on the agony.
At the close Matthew Wade was 15 not out, with Travis Head, the first innings centurion, on 12.
The equation is bleak for New Zealand captain Kane Williamson's men, who had hoped for a result in Melbourne to keep the series alive to the third and final match in Sydney next week.
No team has ever scored more than 417 runs in a fourth innings at the MCG, and none has ever chased down more than 332 to win at the venue.
Dominated by Australia's batsmen in the opening two days, New Zealand crumbled in the face of formidable fast bowling.
Pat Cummins was chief tormentor as he underlined his status as the format's premier exponent with a blistering display of pace and precision.
He led Australia's bowling with 5-28, his fourth five-wicket haul in tests coming in the closing days of a brilliant year.
He was scarcely better than team mate James Pattinson, the fiery 29-year-old quick claiming 3-34 in his return to the side as replacement for the injured Josh Hazlewood.
Thousands of New Zealanders had flown across "the ditch" to watch their team's first appearance at the MCG in 32 years, many with hope of a better show than the Black Caps' 296-run capitulation in Perth.
Instead, they have seen another disaster unfold in the wake of Williamson's decision to send Australia in to bat after winning the toss.
Adding to the gloom, Black Caps paceman Trent Boult suffered a fracture in his hand after being struck by a ball, ruling him out of the Sydney test, and will head home from Melbourne.
All four of the wickets grabbed by New Zealand came after tea on Saturday, with seamer Neil Wagner dismissing Steve Smith for seven, the fourth time he has captured the master batsman's wicket in the series.
But Head and Wade stood firm in the final overs to ensure Australia will return on day four with victory in close range.Reuters