Marnus Labuschagne’s brilliant summer has continued with another half-century as Australia went to tea at 2-182 on day one against a hapless New Zealand in Sydney.
In pursuit of his fourth hundred of the summer, Labuschagne went to the second break at the SCG unbeaten on 73 with Steve Smith alongside him on 42.
The pair are looking to further compound New Zealand’s miserable day, after captain Kane Williamson was one of four players ruled out through injury or illness.
Henry Nicholls and Mitchell Santner are also out sick, while left-armer Trent Boult is already back in New Zealand after fracturing his hand in their loss at the MCG.
A fifth player in quick Tim Southee was overlooked, as New Zealand had concerns over his workload in their opening two losses in the three-match series.
It left Neil Wagner and Colin de Grandhomme as the Black Caps’ only two bowlers surviving from the MCG, with Matt Henry playing as their other quick.
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Wagner has been by far New Zealand’s best bowler, again slowing Smith with short-pitch bowling and legside fields.
Smith took some 39 minutes and 45 balls to get off the mark – the longest wait of his career – but began to look more comfortable before the tea interval.
Wagner also removed David Warner for 45, again with a short ball that barely bounced as the Aussie opener guided it to de Grandhomme at leg gully.
It marked the fourth time he has taken his wicket this series.
De Grandhomme got the other wicket, drawing an edge from Joe Burns (18) to first slip.
But Labuschagne has had no such trouble against a New Zealand side being captained by Tom Latham for the first time.
He has worked the ball off his pads with ease, with 83 per cent of his runs coming through the legside.
The 25-year-old already has scores of 185, 162 and 143 in his breakthrough summer, with his only total below 50 being when he was run out for 19 in the second innings in Melbourne.
He has looked particularly comfortably against newly-picked spinners Will Somerville and Todd Astle, lifting the former into the member’s stand for six just before tea.
Debutant Glenn Phillips and Jeet Raval are New Zealand’s other new faces in their top and middle order, with Phillips having been flown in on Thursday night from Auckland.
Australia, meanwhile, resisted the urge to blood spinner Mitchell Swepson on a wicket expected to turn.