New Zealand's Tom Latham (left) and Kane Williamson
New Zealand's Tom Latham (left) and Kane Williamson shared a century stand against Australia. Image by AP PHOTO
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NZ stand up in second Test, lead Australia by 40

Ben McKay March 9, 2024

New Zealand have roared back into the second Test courtesy of a century stand from Tom Latham and Kane Williamson.

The top-order Black Caps fought off the Australian attack late on day two, pushing New Zealand to a 40-run lead at the close of play on Saturday.

Latham pushed on to an unbeaten 65, and will resume in Christchurch on Sunday alongside Rachin Ravindra, who is on 11.

New Zealand, who so often succumb at Australia’s hands, finally found fight in the two-Test series, numbing the tourists’ attack and slowing the momentum that had threatened to end the match early.

Latham and Williamson (51) played with patience, putting on 105 in the hosts’ best partnership of the series so far.

“Runs were quite delicate so it was nice to … put together a partnership,” Williamson said.

“It certainly wasn’t easy. They’re an outstanding attack.”

For Williamson in particular – playing his 100th Test and having recently underachieved against Australia – the knock felt especially significant.

Ravindra played with a game awareness lacking in previous innings, prioritising his wicket and making it through to stumps.

Australia might have had a breakthrough a few overs before the close, with Latham edging Josh Hazlewood, only for wicketkeeper Alex Carey to drop a chance while diving to his right.

With eight wickets up their sleeve, if New Zealand can kick on with the benefit of an improving pitch, they will set Australia a competitive chase.

Marnus Labuschagne, who made a fighting 90 earlier in the day, said Australia remained confident.

Marnus Labuschagne
 Marnus Labuschagne made a timely return to form for Australia, scoring 90 against New Zealand. Image by AP PHOTO 

“It’s hard to put a number on it, but we’re happy to chase whatever they get,” he said.

If the day ended with New Zealand firmly back in the contest, in-form Matt Henry was the one who gave the Black Caps a prayer.

The 32-year-old played a lone hand among the Kiwi bowlers, taking 7-67 as Australia made 256 to build a 94-run first-innings lead.

Henry’s extraordinary figures were the best by a New Zealander against Australia since Sir Richard Hadlee took 9-52 in the 1985/86 tour: the only time the Kiwis have won an away trans-Tasman series.

Beginning the day with the figures of 3-39, Henry added nightwatchman Nathan Lyon (20) and Mitch Marsh (duck) to his scalps before lunch.

After the break, he had Mitchell Starc (28) caught behind and Pat Cummins (23) lbw for his second seven-wicket haul, both coming at home in Christchurch.

Matt Henry
 Matt Henry, a threat with bat and ball in the Test series, finished Saturday with figures of 7-67. Image by AP PHOTO 

With those figures, Henry – who bats at No.9 – finished Australia’s innings as New Zealand’s leading run-scorer and chief wicket-taker from the two-Test series.

Aside from the tail, the only Australian batter to out-perform their average was Labuschagne, who sorely needed the runs.

Coming into the Test on the back of six knocks of 10 or below, Labuschagne silenced the doubters with an anchoring innings.

He looked set for a fighting ton until Glenn Phillips took a screamer at gully to remove Australia’s No.3 off Tim Southee’s bowling.

Henry’s ferocity with the ball was in contrast to tame offerings from captain Southee (1-68), Scott Kuggeleijn (0-30) and Ben Sears (1-71).

When Australia returned to the field, their bowlers were also made to toil, as the Black Caps batters placed a value on their wicket for the first time in the series.

Only Will Young (one) was cheaply dismissed, lowering his series average to 9.75.

Australia lead the two-Test series 1-0 after a 172-run victory at Wellington’s Basin Reserve last week, and have already retained the Trans-Tasman Trophy.