New Zealand 166 and 5 for 98 (Watling 20*, de Grandhomme 0*, Lyon 3-33) need another 370 runs to beat Australia 416 and 9 for 217 dec (Burns 53, Labuschagne 50, Southee 5-69, Wagner 3-59)
PERTH: Nathan Lyon and Mitchell Starc took Australia to within five wickets of a yawning victory over New Zealand with four sessions remaining in the day-night Test at Perth Stadium.
Taking advantage of a deteriorating pitch that offered cracks and also footmarks for the spinners, the Australians accounted for Ross Taylor and Tom Latham shortly after lunch, before Henry Nicholls was out to Lyon off pad and bat in the final over of the middle session.
New Zealand had been set a target of 468 after Australia captain Tim Paine declared with one wicket remaining at the end of an innings where the visitors had successfully limited the lead while also expanding the amount of time in which the hosts may have needed to bowl with only two fit pacemen. Josh Hazlewood, sidelined with a hamstring tear, padded up to bat but was not asked to hobble out to the middle.
However, a quick breakthrough by Mitchell Starc, who bounced out a struggling Jeet Raval, and then Lyon’s bat-pad dismissal of the touring captain Kane Williamson had the Australians eyeing a vast defeat of the tourists on another day of temperatures higher than 35-degree C.
Tim Southee and Neil Wagner shared eight wickets between them in Australia’s second innings, as New Zealand claimed 8 for 86 after the hosts had advanced to 1 for 131 late on the third day. Their concerted, short-pitched angle of attack resulted not only in plenty of wickets but also a succession of painful blows for the batsmen, most notably Matthew Wade.
Wade, Pat Cummins, Starc and Lyon added 50 runs on the fourth afternoon, leaving New Zealand with five-and-a-half sessions to survive if they wish to get out of Perth with a draw – a feat that, if achieved, would severely fatigue Australia’s bowlers with Hazlewood already out of the game.
If New Zealand did not make quite as disastrous a start as they had done in the first innings, when they had lost two wickets in the first two overs, Raval and Latham could not stay together for long. Taking advantage of an increasingly cracked pitch, Starc taunted Raval with the words, “This is the last chance of your career,” before promptly hitting the shoulder of the opener’s bat to gift Lyon the simplest of catches the very next ball. With scores of 3, 33, 4, 0, 19, 5, 0, 1 and 1 since his first Test century against Bangladesh, Raval has some thinking to do.
Williamson was granted some early latitude by Starc and Cummins, who allowed him to skate into the teens with a couple of full balls on leg stump and then a wide half volley, but Lyon was in no mood to be quite so charitable. His first ball leapt out of the surface with turn and bounce, clipping the edge onto the thigh pad and straight to short leg to leave New Zealand teetering at the interval.
They were given very little respite on resumption through a superlative spell from Cummins, who will bowl far worse on other days and return a hatful of wickets. The rewards were to be reaped by Starc when Taylor attempted a pull shot and could only edge thinly behind to Paine, and then Lyon when he fizzed one through to strike Latham in front of the middle and leg stumps. Paine reviewed after the umpire Aleem Dar decided the ball may be missing the stumps, only to be proven clearly wrong by ball-tracking.
In weather that remained unpleasantly hot, Paine resorted to the dual amateur spin bowling of Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne, the former earning the compliment that he was “bowling like Tim May” from his impressed captain. Paine then swung Lyon back into the fray for the final over, and he presented Head with a close-in catch at silly point when Nicholls propped tentatively forward to another delivery spitting out of the rough.