Australia vs New Zealand: Imperious Marnus Labuschagne puts hosts in command on opening day

Adithya Sundar 10:13 04/01/2020
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Century No.4 for Marnus Labuschagne.

Marnus Labuschagne headlined yet another first innings performance of Australia with a fluent century against New Zealand in the third and final Test at Sydney.

The 26-year-old who finished as the leading run-scorer in Tests last year,  started 2020 with a bang as well.

Labuschagne and Steve Smith added 146 runs for the third wicket to help Australia to a commanding position at the end of Day 1.

Depleted Kiwis asked to field first

Kane Williamson and Henry Nicholls missed out after contracting flu a couple of days before the game.

The Kiwis dropped both Mitch Santner and Tim Southee to bring spinners William Sommerville and Todd Astle, hoping for some assistance from the slow surface at Sydney.

For the third Test in a row the hosts won the toss and elected to bat. For the third Test in a row, Joe Burns was the first batsman to be dismissed and David Warner got out to Neil Wagner in the forties.

The Kiwis had seen this pattern at Perth and Melbourne, and dreaded what was coming.

Sure enough, it was deja vu! Marnus Labuschagne came, toyed around with the bowling and notched a half-century before the Tea interval. At the other end, Steve Smith was determined not to be bounced out and so, started rather slowly.

Smith got off the mark after 39 deliveries and acknowledged the cheers from the good-humoured SCG crowd.

The duo accelerated towards the end of the second session and attacked the pair of New Zealand spinners who were playing in the series for the first time.

New Ball does the trick

By the start of the final session of the day, Labuschagne and Smith were well set and though the short-pitched bowling of Neil Wagner was disconcerting at times for the batsmen, runs continued to flow at a steady rate.

Smith reached a half-century after meditating on 49 for more than a dozen deliveries, before Labuschagne reached his fourth ton in seven innings with a flick down to fine-leg off the bowling of Colin de Grandhomme.

As the partnership continued to grow, stand-in skipper Tom Latham predictably took the second new ball as soon as it was available.

Colin de Grandhomme finally broke the 146-run stand in the third over with the new ball as he had Smith caught at slips with a ball that just nipped away off the seam from a good length.

Marnus Labuschagne who grew from strength to strength in his pleasing innings, held his own against the new ball and remained unbeaten alongside Matthew Wade at stumps on Day 1.

On a rather placid track, discipline eluded New Zealand’s bowling attack and despite the wicket of Steve Smith with the new ball, they leaked 42 runs in the final ten overs.

Brief Scores:

Day, 1 – Stumps

Australia 289/3 (Labuschagne 130*, Smith 63, Warner 45, Wade 20*) v New Zealand

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