Australia take control on hard-fought day

Australia 505 and 70 for 1 (Burns 27*) need another 131 runs to beat New Zealand 370 and 335 (Williamson 97, Henry 66, Watling 46, Bird 5-59)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Jackson Bird claimed a maiden Test five-for in New Zealand’s second innings © Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images

New Zealand delayed, annoyed and even frustrated Australia into some of the ugliest scenes of the summer. Yet Steven Smith’s men persisted through it all, and by day’s end were a mere 131 runs away from claiming victory in Christchurch and the No. 1 Test ranking.

For all the hosts’ fighting qualities, whether it was Kane Williamson‘s dogged 97, Corey Anderson’s self-denial or the common sense rearguard of BJ Watling and Matt Henry, Australia always stayed ahead of the game. For this they can thank Jackson Bird, who summoned his first five-wicket haul in Tests, and also the support of James Pattinson, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Marsh.

While David Warner nibbled down the leg side to complete the most underwhelming Test series of his career, Joe Burns and Usman Khawaja fought through to the close against another round of short balls from Neil Wagner.

At one point, slip was the only man on the off side, making Wagner’s attack obvious. But the second-wicket stand came closest to being broken when Khawaja nearly edged an attempted drive onto the stumps in Anderson’s final over of the day.

Australia’s efforts in the field had been obvious, and often near the edge of exasperation. Tempers had simmered during a long stand between Williamson and Anderson, before Bird struck once with the old ball then twice with the new to take the visitors closer to a fourth-innings chase. But Watling and Henry played with good sense to add 118 and ensure New Zealand have something to defend.

Pattinson and Hazlewood again bowled with pace, direction and reverse swing in the first hour and went exceptionally close to dismissing both batsmen more than once. Hazlewood’s last appeal – and Australia’s last referral – moments before lunch drew another denial and considerable frustration from Smith’s men.

There was self-recrimination, too, when Marsh dropped Anderson at the gully, and the tourists went to the interval clearly angry at not being able to dislodge the overnight pair. They were more patient when faced by Watling and Henry, eventually rewarded when Pattinson had Watling caught on the leg side and Henry was bowled by Bird.

Full report to follow

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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