Off-spinner Nathan Lyon dismissed Kane Williamson in a contentious line-ball LBW decision to add impetus to Australia’s charge for victory on the fourth day of the series-opening Test on Sunday when rain and some stubborn, old-school Test batting prolonged New Zealand’s resistance.
The post-lunch session was delayed and the evening session was abandoned because of rain and bad light on Sunday and New Zealand — chasing a victory target of 504 after Australia declared its second innings closed before play resumed — was 142-3 at stumps.
The New Zealanders need 362 runs for an unlikely victory on Monday, or need to bat through three sessions for a draw. Their cause may be aided by forecast showers on day five for the area around the Gabba, where Australia hasn’t lost a Test match since 1988.
New Zealand has two of its most experienced players at the crease, in former captain Ross Taylor (20) and current skipper Brendon McCullum (4), who are both capable of scoring quick runs and of batting for long periods
Opener Tom Latham was confident his captain could produce a match-defining innings. “It’s important (McCullum) goes out and plays his natural game,” he said. “If he goes out and bats for an hour or two, we could certainly be a long way to winning the match.
“We’re still in with a chance. It’s still a pretty good wicket. The guys are still pretty relaxed.”
Lyon said the odds were stacked in Australia’s favor, but “if we don’t bowl well and they get away, they have two very dangerous batsmen at the crease, so it’s definitely a chance.”
McCullum “is a world-class player, he’s dangerous, but I love challenges and I am looking forward to it, so bring it on.”
Williamson followed up his first hundred against Australia by scoring 59 before he was hit high on the leg by a Lyon delivery and given out 10 minutes before tea. He called for a review of umpire Richard Illingworth’s decision, but failed to get it overturned after TV replays indicated the ball would have clipped the bails. Until then, he’d been untroubled by the Australian pacemen, and cruised to his half century from 55 balls.
New Zealand started well, losing only one wicket in the first session. Latham (29) batted for 100 minutes until he was trapped LBW by Mitchell Starc with the total at 44. Martin Guptill (23) had reprieves on 0 and 7 — Joe Burns at short leg and Lyon fielding square of the wicket couldn’t grasp sharp chances off Mitchell Johnson’s bowling — and he also survived a review of an LBW appeal on 20 before his 133-ball resistance ended when he edged off-spinner Lyon to Steve Smith at first slip to make the total 98-2.
He batted resolutely for more than three hours without hitting a boundary, ensuring Australia’s pace bowlers didn’t get a run through the top order like they did in the first innings when New Zealand lost 4-16 in five overs.
Starc got the breakthrough when he hit Latham on the front foot and Johnson created wicket-taking chances, but otherwise the pace bowlers strayed off a tight line and allowed the batsmen to leave too many deliveries.
Lyon changed the dynamic on a pitch offering extra bounce for the spinners, returning 2-33 from 11 overs before the weather conditions contrived to finish off the day.
The Australians will seek quick wickets on Monday, when 98 overs are scheduled, to ensure a result after holding momentum for the entire match.
Australia declared in both innings — for 556-4 in the first and 264-4 in the second, and bowled New Zealand out for 317 in between.