Australia starts day four of the second Test at the MCG on the verge of pulling off a stunning series victory, with paceman Pat Cummins set to confirm his superstar status when the tourists are asked to bat again.
Cummins snared 5-28 on Saturday, with James Pattinson offering three scalps in support, to roll NZ for just 148 in its first innings.
At stumps Australia was at 4-137, leading the Black Caps by a 456 runs.
No team has successfully chased more than 418 in a Test, with the home side having set a similar target of 468 in Perth just a fortnight ago in their 296-run win.
David Warner (38) and Marnus Labuschagne (19) fell in pursuit of quick runs, while Joe Burns was more patient in his 100-ball 38.
Steve Smith was also out again trying to pull Neil Wagner, marking the fourth time he had fallen to a short ball from the left-armer in as many innings this series.
Pattinson’s haul of 3-34 will provide a testing time for selectors if Josh Hazlewood overcomes a hamstring strain for the final Test, starting on Friday at the SCG.
Hazlewood remains some chance of proving his fitness, but it’s understood he is unlikely to be risked if Australia go to Sydney up 2-0.
After taking the prized scalp of Kane Williamson on Friday, Pattinson removed BJ Watling and Mitchell Santner on Saturday in his first Test back on home soil in almost four years.
“When you speak to guys playing (Sheffield) Shield or county cricket, they speak of him (Pattinson) as though he is one of the best bowlers in the world,” Cummins said.
“We all know that – and for him to come out in front of his home fans and for everyone to see it on TV rather than in Shield cricket – great.
“That (depth) has been really prevalent in the past 12 months. We speak a lot about this group of fast bowlers that we want to keep together.”
Mitchell Starc also claimed two wickets to take his tally to 25 for the summer, an average of 14.60.
“(Their bowling) was pretty relentless. They didn’t really let us have anything,” Black Caps batsman Tom Latham said.
The way they executed was spot on from a bowling point of view and the way we handled it was not the way we wanted to.”
It is Cummins first five-wicket Test haul since tearing apart Sri Lanka at the Gabba with 6-24 in January.
“I’ve had a pretty good run lately so I can’t see it getting too much better than what the last few years have been, but hopefully I can maintain that level,” Cummins said.
“Australia Day and those kind of Tests (in Brisbane) feel so long ago; even the Ashes feel a long time ago, so I’m not really focused too much on the past.”
The right-arm paceman is comfortably Test cricket’s leading wicket-taker of 2019 with 59 scalps, 16 ahead of England paceman Stuart Broad.
The 26-year-old, who became the richest-ever overseas Indian Premier League player last week, didn’t give the Kiwis an inch as he bowled with typical pace and accuracy.
Things got worse for New Zealand during their first innings when seam bowler Trent Boult broke his hand.
The left-arm opening bowler was hit on the right hand by a Starc delivery.
NZ confirmed Boult will miss the third and final Test at the SCG, flying home to New Zealand after the end of the Melbourne match. He will require about four weeks of recovery.
Black Caps opening batsman Tom Latham said it was “gutting news” for Boult and the entire team.
“To have someone like that ruled out with his injury is obviously disappointing,” Latham said.
“I’m sure whoever will come in will be up for the task.”
Boult still managed to bowl at the start of Australia’s second innings.
The 30-year-old went off for scans on Saturday, but later returned to the field and ended up adding three overs to the six he had previously bowled.
It continues a tough run of luck for Boult, who missed New Zealand’s first Test loss against Australia in Perth because of a rib issue.
New Zealand say a replacement bowler will be announced at a later date.
The Kiwis’ next Test series is in February at home against world No.1 ranked India.