MELBOURNE: Master batsman Steve Smith ground out an unbeaten 77 as he zeroes in on yet another century, putting Australia in the driving seat after the opening day of the second Test against New Zealand on Thursday.
In the Black Caps’ first Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground since 1987, skipper Kane Williamson won the toss and opted to bowl, and it looked to be a good decision with Joe Burns out the first ball and David Warner just before lunch.
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But first Marnus Labuschagne, the world’s leading run-scorer for 2019, and then Smith smacked half-centuries to seize back control and leave them on 257 for four, frustrating the disciplined New Zealand bowlers who kept the run rate down.
Along with the fidgety Smith, Travis Head was not out 25, desperate for runs after a lean spell. Labuschagne made 63 with Colin de Grandhomme the pick of the bowlers with 2-48.
The signs are ominous for New Zealand with superstar Smith scoring centuries in his past four Tests in Melbourne, and a fifth looking likely.
“The way they bowled and placed their field, I had to be patient,” said Smith. “It’s not the kind of wicket you could go after them.
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“It was a bold decision by Williamson to bowl on a pitch that has traditionally been docile and favored the batsmen,” Smith said.