Australia need 202 runs, New Zealand 6 wickets as thrilling finish on cards | Cricket - Hindustan Times
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Australia need 202 runs and New Zealand 6 wickets as thrilling finish on cards in 2nd Test

PTI |
Mar 10, 2024 03:00 PM IST

At stumps, Australia was 77-4 with Mitch Marsh 27 not out and Travis Head 17. Head and Marsh batted through the last 10 overs of the day

Australia needed 202 runs and New Zealand six wickets to win the second cricket test in what should be a thrilling finish after both teams had highs and lows on the third day Sunday.

Ben Sears (C) is congratulated by teammates after taking the wicket of Australia's Marnus Labuschagne on day three of the second Test(AFP)
Ben Sears (C) is congratulated by teammates after taking the wicket of Australia's Marnus Labuschagne on day three of the second Test(AFP)

Rachin Ravindra made 82, Tom Latham 73 and Daryl Mitchell 58 before New Zealand was out for 372 in its second innings after trailing by 94 on the first.

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That left Australia needing 279 to win the match and complete a 2-0 sweep of the series. The target, if achieved, will be the 14th-highest successful fourth-innings run chase in test history.

At stumps, Australia was 77-4 with Mitch Marsh 27 not out and Travis Head 17. Head and Marsh batted through the last 10 overs of the day to save Australia from further loss.

Matt Henry and Ben Sears took two wickets each in the final session as New Zealand reduced Australia to 34-4 before it staged its late recovery.

New Zealand heads into the final day in a strong position to continue its streak of unbeaten test series at home. After the current pair, Australia has wicketkeeper Alex Carey to come, then captain Pat Cummins and the rest of the bowlers.

Australia had held a slight advantage at the end of the second day when New Zealand was 134-2 in its second innings, a lead of only 40.

New Zealand increased its lead through an absorbing day Sunday, through a partnership of 123 between Ravindra and Mitchell and with the help of Scott Kuggeleijn's 44 from 49 balls near the end.

But just as New Zealand seemed to be gaining control and putting itself into a position to set Australia a much more demanding fourth-innings chase, wickets fell in clumps and Australia put itself back in the match.

The first session was a good one for New Zealand as it added 105 runs for the loss of Latham's wicket. Latham resumed at 65 not out and wasn't able to fully re-start his innings before he fell to a catch by Carey off Cummins.

Carey took four catches on the third day and one to remove Kane Williamson (51) on day two to finish with 10 catches in the match.

Ravindra was 11 when play began Sunday, after battling the Australian seamers for 55 minutes before stumps on day two. He was much more comfortable Sunday and reached his second half century of the series from 96 balls. He made 59 in the second innings of the first test.

Mitchell made his half century from 94 balls, then Australia took the second new ball and the match changed complexion again as three wickets fell for 18 runs.

First, Mitchell was out with New Zealand 278-4, then Ravindra followed eight runs later after coming in with sight of the first century of the match. Marnus Labuschagne top-scored with 90 in Australia's first innings.

Tom Blundell then fell for 9 and New Zealand was 296-6, a lead of only 202.

Kuggeleijn's 44 which included two sixes and five fours won back the initiative briefly. But the other contributions from the tail were not what it needed and when Kuggeleijn was the last man out, it would have felt it's lead was just adequate.

“I think the guys showed a lot of fight today with the bat and built a couple of key partnerships which was great,” Latham said. “The guys did a fantastic job tonight with the ball.

“I think it's a wicket where, if you get it right with the new ball, it can be challenging. There's obviously bounce there and some movement off the wicket as well.”

Henry kept up his outstanding form of the series and followed his 7-67 in the first innings by dismissing Steve Smith lbw when he was 9. Smith continues to struggle in his new opening role and has scores of 31, 0, 11 and 9 in the series.

Sears caught Labuschagne (6) off his own bowling two balls after Labuschagne was dropped by Mitchell at first slip.

Tim Southee then took a brilliant catch at third slip to dimiss Usman Khawaja (11) off Henry and Sears bowled Cameron Green (5).

Australia's hopes now hang heavily on Marsh and Head.

“I think the nature of the way they play, they play their shots, in turn provides us with opportunities,” Latham said. “They go after the game and they're going to take the positive option.

“That sets it up for a great day tomorrow.”

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