by Robert Smith, AFP
Adelaide: New Zealand held a tenuous 94-run lead in the absorbing day-night third Test after a second day of tumbling wickets at the Adelaide Oval on Saturday.
The Kiwis, trailing 1-0 in the series, struggled to build a defendable total to present Australia in the fourth innings after another fast-paced day’s cricket of 13 wickets before 42,372 fans.
116 for five At the close, the Black Caps were finding batting difficult under lights and were 116 for five with a result looming on Sunday’s third day in the scheduled five-day Test.
New Zealand had lost their top batsmen and at the crease were B.J. Watling on seven with debutant Mitchell Santner not out 13.
“Definitely no figure. Whatever we end up with we’re just going to have to get some wickets but more importantly having that new ball as close to twilight as possible,” senior batsman Ross Taylor said.
“If we can keep them out there and keep our bowlers from bowling not as many overs tomorrow, then we give ourselves the best chance.”
Josh Hazlewood led the Australian attack with three wickets in the absence of injured spearhead Mitchell Starc as the pink ball again dominated the bat.
Hazlewood removed both openers with mesmerising ball movement under lights. Martin Guptill sliced to Mitch Marsh in the gully for 17 and Tom Latham was tempted by a wider delivery and was caught behind for 10.
Hazlewood had Kane Williamson dropped on one by Adam Voges in the slips but the star Kiwi batsman soon feathered a catch to Nevill off Mitch Marsh for nine to complete a low-scoring match.
Captain Brendon McCullum followed for 20, leg before wicket to Marsh and Perth Test double century-maker Taylor fell the same way to Hazlewood for 32.
“The wicket’s not that bad to have so many wickets taken in two days,” Hazlewood said.
“We had a middle-order collapse today. We should probably be still batting now. We’ll try and fix that for the second innings.”
The second day turned on a contentious challenge decision in Australia’s favour before dinner, enabling them to go on and grab a 22-run innings lead.
Nathan Lyon survived a review in which ‘Hot Spot’ revealed a mark on the back of his bat before he had scored.
The review was churned over for minutes before the TV umpire Nigel Llong decided there was not enough to go on despite the Hot Spot evidence to give Lyon out, caught off spinner Santner, with Australia reeling at 118 for eight and trailing the Kiwis by 84 runs.
Lyon walked three-quarters of the way off the ground believing he was out before he returned to continue batting and join in a record Australian trans-Tasman series 74-run ninth-wicket stand with Peter Nevill.
Lyon was eventually out for 34 as the Australians hit back to take an innings lead with incapacitated Mitchell Starc smashing two massive sixes off spinner Mark Craig.
Starc, who came into bat at No.11 after being diagnosed with a stress foot fracture on Friday, thrilled the home crowd with his prodigious hitting.
Nevill was the hero and was the last man out for his highest Test score of 66 leaving the hobbling Starc unbeaten on 24 which included two sixes and three fours.
Doug Bracewell finished his side’s best bowler with three for 18 off 12.1 overs.
It was rough justice for the Kiwis, who have been on the receiving end of some controversial umpiring decisions.
Australia were in dire trouble at 116 for eight at tea after a rampant Kiwi bowling performance in the first session.
The Black Caps snared Steve Smith’s prized wicket when he charged off-spinner Craig only to be caught by wicketkeeper Watling.
The Kiwis had the Australians well on the back foot with Peter Siddle out four balls later in the same Craig over and then Hazlewood was bowled by Santner for four in the final over before tea.
Just 62 runs were scored by Australia for the loss of six wickets in the first session off 29.5 overs.