Marnus Labuschagne scored his third consecutive ton as Australia finished at 248 for four at the end of the opening day’s play at Perth in the first Test against New Zealand, after opting to bat.
Late strikes in the evening session ensured that the hosts didn’t get far ahead after an engrossing day of Test cricket.
Australia lose openers cheaply
Tim Southee and debutant Lockie Ferguson shared the new ball for the Kiwis as Trent Boult failed to recover in time from his side strain.
While Southee kept things tight at one end, Ferguson was wayward and was punished by David Warner.
The opening breakthrough came in the twelfth over of the day as medium pacer Colin de Grandhomme trapped Joe Burns LBW. The opener was dissuaded by his partner to not opt for the review which ultimately turned out to be the wrong decision, as replays suggested that it could’ve been overturned had the decision gone to the third umpire.
Just before the Tea interval at the end of the first session, Neil Wagner dismissed Warner with an exceptional return catch. The southpaw turned his bat early to a full toss and the pacer dived forward in his follow through to send Warner packing.
Smith and Labuschagne frustrate the Kiwis
Resuming at 76 for two, Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith set up about resurrecting the innings in the second session.
Labuschagne was the more fluent of the two batsmen, punishing the poor deliveries and handling short deliveries from Ferguson and Wagner with ease.
Smith struggled initially and took a while to get going. The former skipper was handed a lifeline when Tom Latham dropped him at slip, denying Ferguson a maiden wicket. The second session finished wicket-less as the duo added 84 runs.
Feguson’s injury a cause of concern for New Zealand
During the third session, pacer Lockie Ferguson left the field due to a right calf strain. The team later confirmed that he was going for an MRI scan and that he will be reassessed on Friday morning.
The 28-year-old bowled 11 overs on his first day in Test cricket and leaked 47 runs. He couldn’t find the right length on the Perth pitch and struggled to trouble the Aussies.
Kiwis strike late after Labuschagne’s ton
Marnus Labuschagne became the first Australian to score three consecutive Test hundreds since David Warner managed a similar feat against New Zealand in 2015.
The top-order batsman was flawless in his knock and reached his landmark with a six over long-on, off Mitchell Santner.
There has been no looking back for the 25-year-old since he sneaked into the Australian team as a concussion substitute for Steve Smith, during an Ashes Test. Since then he has broken into the top ten of the Test rankings and is the first batsman to score 1000 Test runs in 2019.
Shortly after the Labuschagne reached his ton, Neil Wagner broke the 125-run stand for the third wicket. He prized out Steve Smith with a short delivery as a miscued pull shot went straight to Tim Southee at leg gully.
The Kiwis took the new ball as soon as it was available and Southee put it to good use. He bowled a peach of a delivery to castle Matthew Wade. Bowling around the wicket, he got the ball to shape away just a bit to clip the top of the off stump.
The pair of Labuschagne and Travis Head batted out the remaining eight overs of the day as Australia finished at 248 for four.
Day – 1, Stumps
Australia – 248/4 (Labuschagne 110, Smith 43; Wagner 2-52)
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