Australia’s bowlers get their chance to wrap up the Test series against New Zealand at the MCG on Saturday, with a fresh pace attack set to make the most of the pressure on the tourists’ batsmen.
The Black Caps resume day three of the second Test at 2-44 chasing Australia’s 467, with skipper Kane Williamson and new opener Tom Blundell already back in the sheds.
Tom Latham (nine) and Ross Taylor (one) are the not out batsmen.
Late on Friday, Aussie paceman Pat Cummins had Blundell caught behind for just 15, while the returning James Pattinson had the dangerous Williamson caught by Tim Paine for nine after he skyed a big hit.
Australia’s big lead came after Travis Head became the first South Australian-born player since Andrew Hilditch in 1984 to score a Test ton at the MCG.
Head’s 114 off 234 balls came after he’d been tipped to be the man dropped if Australia had opted for five bowlers in this Test, although his skipper Paine told cricket.com.au that it was mostly a feint to upset New Zealand.
The No.6 said coach Justin Langer kept him in the loop about the team’s intentions and he never really doubted his spot in the team.
“I had a good sense that I was playing and didn’t read too much into it,” Head said after stumps.
At the end of the day, if that’s where selection lies, I’ve just got to prepare as best as I can to play a Test match. I don’t take that into account too much.”
The 26-year-old’s second Test ton came in vastly different circumstances to his first back in February.
Head’s breakthrough 161 was achieved against a second-string Sri Lankan bowling attack at Australia’s smallest Test venue, Canberra’s Manuka Oval.
But the left-hander was made to work hard during this innings in front of a lively MCG crowd as Kiwi quick Neil Wagner continued with his short-pitch bowling barrage.
“(New Zealand) had some really good plans to tie me down,” Head said.
“Credit to New Zealand, at times it was difficult, they stemmed the scoreboard.”
The tireless Wagner, who finished with 4-83 from 38 overs, said his team will continue to fight.
“I thought we kept fighting, we kept trying and that’s one of the great characteristics about this team is that we kept giving everything, even in the field,” Wagner said.
Australia just had too many batsmen in form, with Steve Smith hitting 85 to fall short of his first century of the summer after another short ball off Wagner hit the sholder of his bat.
Paine played an aggressive innings to make 79, falling lbw also to Wagner after a DRS review.