New Zealand set Australia 201-run target

Tea New Zealand 370 and 311 for 7 (Watling 46*, Henry 45*, Bird 3-59) lead Australia 505 by 176 runs
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Jackson Bird struck took three wickets in ten deliveries to leave New Zealand struggling © Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images

Jackson Bird struck three times in 10 balls before BJ Watling and Matt Henry formed a pesky lower order stand to lift New Zealand’s lead over Australia to 176 by tea on day four of the second Test at Hagley Oval.

Australian tempers had simmered during a long stand of 102 runs between Kane Williamson and Corey Anderson, but Bird struck once with the old ball then twice with the new to take the visitors closer to a fourth-innings chase. Watling and Henry, however, played with good sense to add an unbeaten 101 for the eighth wicket, ensuring New Zealand will have something to defend.

James Pattinson and Josh 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 Steven Smith’s men.

But the clearest chance of the morning went down when Mitchell Marsh dropped Anderson in the gully, and the tourists went to the interval clearly angry at not being able to dislodge the overnight pair.

Old-ball swing had been key to Australia claiming four wickets on the third evening, and it was again evident as Pattinson and Hazlewood resumed their barrage. Williamson and then Anderson were both subjects of concerted lbw appeals, but on each occasion DRS replays showed contact with bat first.

Anderson’s escape was queried by the Australians, but was quickly followed by a ball angled across and a sliced drive that burst through Marsh’s hands. By the standard set in this match, including Marsh’s own unrewarded catch off a no-ball on day one, it was a bad miss.

Further close calls followed: Williamson edged Hazlewood the merest fraction short of Peter Nevill’s gloves, and right on lunch the bowler appeared to strike New Zealand’s No. 3 in front with a swinging yorker from around the wicket.

The Australians appealed vehemently and reviewed instantly, but HotSpot replays picked up the faintest inside edge from Williamson before the ball struck his pad, leaving Smith’s men to angrily confront the on-field umpire and express their surprise.

Through all this Williamson and Anderson remained, giving New Zealand something of a foothold in the match against increasingly feverish opponents. They remained unhappy until Bird coaxed Anderson into dragging on in the 79th over of the innings, a wicket that opened up an end for the second new ball.

Williamson was on 97 when a hint of seam movement with the fresh ball resulted in an edge onto the stumps, and in the same over Tim Southee snicked to Smith in the slips. Australia sensed they were close to sealing the match, but Watling and Henry had other ideas.

Unfussy but positive, they worked the ball around with calculated moments of aggression to build the lead, not offering a chance in the process. By the interval their union was New Zealand’s best for the eighth wicket in a decade, once more leaving Smith to ponder his options.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

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Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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