Wagner six restricts Australia's lead to 135

Tea New Zealand 370 and 43 for 1 (Latham 33*, Williamson 10*) trail Australia 455 for 5 (Voges 51*, Marsh 8*) lead by 92 runs
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Neil Wagner bowled with aggression © Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images

Neil Wagner’s persistent short-ball attack was rewarded with a flurry of wickets after lunch as New Zealand restricted Australia’s first-innings lead on the third afternoon of the second Test at Hagley Oval.

Adam Voges and the nightwatchman Nathan Lyon had played serenely in the early part of the day, but Voges’ departure to the pull short after the fashion of Joe Burns and Steven Smith heralded the loss of quick wickets. In all Australia’s last six wickets added only 67.

New Zealand lost the early wicket of Martin Guptill to James Pattinson before Tom Latham and Kane Williamson saw the hosts through to the tea interval. Pattinson bowled with good pace and a hint of movement to find Guptill’s outside edge, but the deficit was reduced to less than 100 by tea.

Wagner’s energy and commitment to banging the ball into the pitch was not sophisticated, but over time it worked wonders on a surface given to the occasional bout of variable pace. His celebrations grew in exuberance at each wicket as Australia’s advantage was restricted.

For Voges it was another instance of applying the sturdy, calculated approach that has brought him runs at a scarcely believable rate in recent times. Momentarily his average again cleared 100, the only man with a decent body of work to occupy that rarefied air above Sir Donald Bradman.

Brendon McCullum tried everything for wickets, eventually settling on a tandem of Kane Williamson and himself that was rewarded with the the dismissal of Lyon, thanks to an agile one-handed catch from the captain.

There had been more ambitious hopes for New Zealand when play began, following up on second evening’s dismissals of Burns and Smith in quick succession. Wagner resumed with a similar line of attack, peppering Voges and Lyon with short stuff.

Partly through determination and good technique, partly due to the docile character of the pitch, the batsmen were able to stand up to this examination. Lyon repeatedly covered the bounce and dead-batted it near his feet.

Runs flowed a little more freely after those early overs, though neither batsman played with extravagance. Voges offered a neat cut shot here, a checked drive there. Lyon worked the ball around with the earnest intent of a man who would like to bat further up the order more often.

Trent Boult had one concerted lbw appeal and review against Voges, but ball did not swing back enough. It was telling that McCullum was reduced to bowling himself with the nightwatchman at the crease, and the Hagley Oval crowd raised a cheer when he beat Lyon’s outside edge.

At the other end Williamson would tempt Lyon into following a ball angled across him, and McCullum swooped nicely for the catch. Mitchell Marsh had a 21-ball sighter before the interval, and had the potential to lift the scoring rate dramatically when play resumed.

Instead it was Voges who tried to push things along, and departed when Latham timed his leap to catch a flat pull shot at square leg. Marsh also tried to take on Wagner, and likewise arrowed a catch to the inner field on the leg side.

Pattinson broke the sequence with a sliced drive to point, before Peter Nevill’s attempted ramp settled into BJ Watling’s gloves. Josh Hazlewood offered a simple catch to McCullum at slip to hand Wagner his sixth wicket, a deserved analysis that kept New Zealand in the match.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

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Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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