Sport Cricket Australia smashes through New Zealand bats to win first Test
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Australia smashes through New Zealand bats to win first Test

Nathan Lyon celebrates the wicket of Kane Williamson. Photo: Getty
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First Test: Australia v New Zealand, Perth, day three

First innings: Australia 416, New Zealand 166

Second innings: Australia 9-217 dec, New Zealand 171

Australia has won the first Test in Perth after setting New Zealand 468 to win and then smashing through the tourists’ top order.

Mitchell Starc was the chief destroyer, taking 5-45, with Nathan Lyon chipping in for vital wickets and 3-63.

Black Caps opener Jeet Raval fell early when a rearing delivery from Mitchell Starc was popped up to Nathan Lyon at point, while Lyon followed up to remove the dangerous Kane Williamson for 14 with his first ball of the day.

After getting Williamson to pop up a ball to Matthew Wade at short leg, Lyon had a chance of a hat-trick having claimed the last wicket of the NZ first innings.

New Zealand steadied until 2-57, when Mitchell Starc broke through to dismiss Ross Taylor caught behind for 22, and the next over Lyon had Tom Latham dismissed lbw for 18 after a video review.

The home side had earlier looked to soak up time in the middle while the pitch baked, with Pat Cummins and Matthew Wade resuming on day four at 6-167, a lead of 417 runs.

But Cummins did not last long, caught by BJ Watling off the bowling of Neil Wagner for just 13, with the lead extended only to 430.

Soon after Wade went for 17, caught at deep square, off Colin de Grandhomme’s bowling.

He seemed to be caught between trying to hold on rather than score runs.

NZ’s Neil Wagner steams in during the morning session in Perth. Photo: AAP

When Mitchell Starc was caught at third man for 23 off Tim Southee, Australian skipper Tim Paine decided against sending out injured bowler Josh Hazlewood.

Australia had collapsed on Saturday night under lights, with five wickets falling for 29 runs.

After his stellar Ashes series, Steve Smith’s lean spell this summer continued, raising questions about perhaps one weakness in his armoury – the short ball.

Smith fell again to a short delivery on Saturday night, with Neil Wagner forcing a shot to Southee for just 16.

The former skipper had entered the Australian summer having never gone three consecutive Tests without scoring a half-century during his entire career.

No other batsman in the game’s history who has averaged above 50 and has played 20 or more Tests has achieved such a feat.

Even the great Sir Donald Bradman went three straight Tests without a half-century in the 1934 Ashes – the only time in his career.

Steve Smith castigates himself after being dismissed for just 16. Photo: AAP

He responded by cracking 304 and 244 in his next two innings.

Smith was starved of opportunities in the 2-0 series win over Pakistan, scoring four and 36 in his only two digs.

It meant the pressure was on Smith to get back to his run-scoring ways in the day-night Test against NZ at Optus Stadium.

Smith scored a painstaking 43 off 164 balls in the first innings before falling to a leg trap when trying to pull Wagner.

And the 71-Test veteran was out for just 16 in the second dig, when he pulled Wagner to square leg.

The run of three straight Tests without a half-century is a far cry from his Ashes heroics, when he plundered 774 runs at an average of 110.6.

Smith is still viewed as the best batsman in the world despite his recent lean spell, but all eyes will be on him during the Boxing Day Test to see if he can end his drought of half-centuries.

Australian opener Joe Burns is also trying to regain his best form, and insists batters are getting more accustomed to facing the pink ball at night – even if the constant flow of wickets suggests otherwise.

Australia lost five wickets in the post-dinner session on Saturday night, after the Black Caps lost six under lights on Friday.

On average more than three wickets have been taken in each night session this summer, as opposed to 2.5 during the day.

Burns finally found some joy against the pink ball on Saturday night.

His 53 was his first half-century against it at Test level.

He also only averages 19.35 in 11 day-night first-class matches after enduring a tough run against the pink in the Sheffield Shield.

But the right-hander said that the more regularly batsmen come up against it, the easier it has become to face.

“I’ve certainly found this Test match, given the continuity we have had with the pink ball, it has become a lot easier to pick up,” Burns said.

It’s one of those things, the more you expose yourself to anything the easier it becomes. You’re really clear with how you want to play it.

“I don’t think here the night session becomes harder from a visibility or swing perspective. I think we have seen swing consistently through the day.

“I think it’s more the wickets where you get dew on the surface, in Adelaide and Brisbane, you find the wicket quickens up.”

-with AAP

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