Mitchell Starc (c) passed Dennis Lillee's Test wicket haul of 355 in the clash against NZ. Image by AP PHOTO
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Hazlewood, Starc give Australia control in NZ Test

Ben McKay March 8, 2024

Australia are in the box seat in the second Test after racing through New Zealand with the ball and offering dogged resistance with the bat on day one.

A Josh Hazlewood-inspired attack rolled New Zealand for 162 in Christchurch, where Australia’s pacemen cashed in on Pat Cummins winning the toss.

Hazlewood claimed 5-31, including four of the top five Kiwi batters, while Mitchell Starc surpassed the great Dennis Lillee’s 355 Test wickets on his way to 3-59.

In reply, Australia wobbled at 2-32 before Marnus Labuschagne (45 not out) calmed proceedings.

Despite Cam Green and Travis Head falling in the final hour of the day, Hazlewood said Australia – 38 runs behind at 4-124 – held the whip hand

“We’re ahead. Would have liked to be two or three down at the end of today … but if we can get a triple-figure lead, that’ll be unreal,” he said.

 Josh Hazlewood tore through New Zealand’s top order, finishing with figures of 5-31. Image by Matt Turner/AAP PHOTOS 

New Zealand were sent in and then sent packing at Hagley Oval, the Kiwis reeling at 8-107 before a late patch-up job by Matt Henry and Tim Southee, who put on 55 for the ninth wicket.

The day was dominated by the Aussie quicks, beginning with Starc, who now sits behind only Glenn McGrath for Test wickets by an Australian paceman.

Starc had Will Young (14) superbly caught when his leading edge deflected to Mitch Marsh at third slip.

From there Hazlewood took over, removing Tom Latham (38), Kane Williamson (17), Rachin Ravindra (four) and Daryl Mitchell (four).

Hazlewood tallied his victims with his trademark consistency, with all but Williamson caught behind the wicket.

New Zealand’s master batter, in his 100th Test, was trapped in front by a pearler of a delivery which angled in.

The ugliest dismissal was that of Ravindra, who arrived at the crease when the Black Caps desperately needed a steadying partnership just prior to lunch.

Instead, Hazlewood tempted the 24-year-old into driving and he was caught by Usman Khawaja at first slip.

Hazlewood’s line and length, slightly fuller than last week at the Basin Reserve, was simply irresistible for the Kiwi bats.

None made a better stand than Southee and Henry, who bats at nine but is the Black Caps’ unlikely leading run scorer for the series.

In reply, debuting quick Ben Sears (1-38) enjoyed a rich introduction to Test cricket.

Steve Smith (11) punished Sears’ first delivery, dispatching a legside delivery for four, but the bowler rebounded two balls later to fire an inswinger that had Smith shouldering arms when he needed to defend, trapping Australia’s opener lbw.

Henry (3-39), backing up his impressive first Test, fired again to give New Zealand something to cling to heading into day two.

The pumped-up paceman bowled Khawaja (16) and Green (25) before the aggressive Head (21) tickled a bottom edge to wicketkeeper Tom Blundell.

Henry said Saturday’s first session could hold the key to the Test.

“Tomorrow morning will be a big moment with the ball, making sure we come out there and take early wickets,” he said.

Labuschagne, returning to form after six straight scores of 10 or fewer, will resume with nightwatchman Nathan Lyon (one) on Saturday.