The writing on the wall for New Zealand was bold and ominous after the completion of Day Three of their second Test against Australia at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).
The visitors’ miserable Test record on Australian soil now looks all set to continue after they were bowled out for under 200 runs for the third innings in a row. Having seen the hosts rack up 467 earlier, Kane Williamson and his men surrendered meekly with the bat once again as they folded for a measly total of just 148 runs.
Armed with a mammoth 319-run first innings lead, Australia opted against enforcing the follow-on and had worked their way over to 137-4 before stumps were drawn on Saturday. With their overall lead now standing at a commanding 456, a series win for the Aussies looks inevitable after they notched a 296-run victory in the first Test in Brisbane.
Cummins’ wonderful 2019 continues
New Zealand’s hopes of fighting back on the third day rested largely on the shoulders of Ross Taylor, but the batting stalwart last just one over before edging a Pat Cummins delivery to the slip cordon.
Cummins made it two wickets in two when he pinned Henry Nicholls lbw before BJ Watling was able to survive the hat-trick delivery. Cummins, however, was not done yet with the No1 ranked Test bowler in the world setting up half-centurion Tom Latham perfectly before snaring his prize wicket via a faint outside edge.
It was the manner in which Cummins worked over Latham that was mesmerising with the fast bowler relentlessly pursuing an off-stump attack before drawing the outside edge. The 26-year-old added tailender Tim Southee’s wicket to his column to bring up a sensational five-for with the Kiwis keeling over a paltry total of just 148 runs. Only half-centurion Latham was able to muster any semblance of resistance with none of the other batsmen breaching the 20-run mark.
The figures of 5-28 from Cummins took the Aussie’s 2019 wicket-tally to 59 with the right-armed pacer extending what has been a fabulous year for him with the red ball.
Wagner makes it four in a row against Smith
Steve Smith’s wait for a first ton in Australia’s home summer was prolonged with the right-hander falling for just seven runs in the second innings. It was once again Neil Wagner who proved to be a thorn in Smith’s flesh with the New Zealand pacer bringing up 200 Test dismissals in the process.
It was also the fourth time in four innings that Wagner had got the better of Smith, with the Aussie batsman once again falling prey to an on-side trap set by the Kiwis. Attempting to paddle a chest-high delivery to the leg side, Smith could only garner a top-edge which was gobbled up comfortably by Tim Southee at backward square.
It means that it has now been nine innings since Smith registered a Test ton with his last century coming in the form of a 211 against England in the Ashes series. His early dismissal was the only glimmer of joy for New Zealand on a bleak day and it ensured that Wagner has now become the second quickest Kiwi bowler after Sir Richard Hadlee to bring up 200 Test dismissals.
Kiwis suffer Boult setback
Trent Boult will return home to New Zealand following the 2nd Test after suffering a fracture to the second-metacarpal of his right hand while batting on day three.— BLACKCAPS (@BLACKCAPS) December 28, 2019
He will require around four weeks of rehabilitation.
A replacement player will be confirmed in due course. pic.twitter.com/KSP66LTCub
As if the prospect of another crushing defeat at the hands of their Trans-tasman rivals was not enough, New Zealand were dealt another big blow in the form of Trent Boult.
The Kiwi pace spearhead was struck on his hand by a Mitchell Starc bouncer while batting, and that injury later proved to be catastrophic. Although he came out and bowled nine overs in Australia’s second innings, Boult has now been ruled out of the third and final Test in Sydney with a fractured hand.
The left-armed seamer had already missed the series opener in Brisbane with a rib injury and he will now fly home after the Melbourne Test to recover from the blow.
It is not clear whether the New Zealand man will bowl again in the remainder of the Test, but that should be the least of the visitors’ concerns as their primary task will come with the bat in the final innings.
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