New Zealand vs Australia, 2nd Test
Christchurch—If day one in Christchurch was unforgettable for its exhilaration, day two was unmistakably about Australian resolve. Steven Smith’s team dearly want to return home with the No. 1 Test ranking in their possession, and a day’s relentless batting at Hagley Oval was a long stride towards doing so.
Brendon McCullum’s world record had been that of the breathtaking daredevil, but the 289-run partnership between Smith and Joe Burns that stretched across the vast majority of play was something far sturdier, less explosion than construction. Even if the surface had flattened out considerably, both batsmen had to fight throughout against doughty bowling and McCullum’s ever-changing plans.
One of his last brainstorms resulted in a pair of belated wickets, accounting for Burns and Smith on the pull shot. Those wickets detracted somewhat from Australia’s day, and left New Zealand with a glimmer of hope should they be able to cut through the middle order in the morning.
Smith’s innings was marked by physical courage as well as mental application. Midway through the day he was struck painfully in the stomach and in Neil Wagner’s last over before tea Smith reeled after ducking into a bouncer. Shaken but unmoved, he faced up to the next ball and played a game pull shot.
For Burns it was a first overseas century and a key marker of his progress as a member of the Australian top order – the sort of innings his predecessor Chris Rogers would have been proud to call his own. Smith meanwhile built another innings redolent of a leader, following up from his scene-setting 71 in Wellington. New Zealand started this tour seeming to have good idea of how to bowl at Smith, but he has ground them down admirably.
New Zealand had entered the day knowing they needed to take advantage of a still newish ball and any remaining moisture in the pitch with quick wickets, and the early loss of Usman Khawaja gave them hope. But Burns and Smith combined in a steely stand that absorbed much of what McCullum’s men hurled at them. In the day’s early overs, the finest hint of movement was evident, and after getting underway with a neat square cut, Khawaja was defeated by a Trent Boult delivery that straightened down the line, caught the edge and was well held by McCullum in the slips cordon.
That wicket put a spring in New Zealand steps, and both Burns and Smith had to endure plenty of testing deliveries in the next hour. Burns came within a centimetre or so of being out when he tried to leave a prancing delivery from Matt Henry.
New Zealand went up in a unanimous and convincing appeal, the umpire’s finger was raised, and Burns immediately reviewed, walking down the wicket with a shake of the head. Replays showed the ball had grazed his shirt rather than glove, and the third umpire Richard Illingworth relayed an overturned verdict.
That moment seemed to ease some of the tension, and from there Burns and Smith freed up with a handful of attractive strokes. There were still uncomfortable moments, epitomised by Smith receiving a painful blow to the midriff when trying to pull Boult, but by lunch Australia had done much of the hard work.
Smith moved swiftly to his fifty when the afternoon began, but the majority of the session was taken up by hard graft. Over and around the wicket, straight fields and square, short balls and full, New Zealand probed every possible avenue on what had become a pleasant batting surface, but Burns and Smith were unmoved.—AFP