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Starc burst puts Australia ahead in pink-ball Test

Inaugural day of first day-night Test ends with home team 54 for 2, trailing New Zealand by 148 runs

Starc burst puts Australia ahead in pink-ball Test - Cricket News
Mitchell Starc dismissed Kane Williamson, Brendon McCullum and Mitchell Santner in nine hostile overs.

Red ball, white one, or pink, cricket’s basics don’t change. New Zealand played fast and loose with them, and was bowled out in just 65.2 overs in the first day-night Test in the game’s history. And though it got the wickets of David Warner – its chief tormentor, caught at third slip for just 1 – and Joe Burns in the final session, it was emphatically Australia’s day in front of 47,441 at the picture-perfect Adelaide Oval on Friday (November 27).

At stumps, Australia was 54 for 2 after having bowled New Zealand out for just 202, with Mitchell Starc’s 3 for 24, the standout performance.

Contrary to much of the pre-match fretting, there were no issues with spotting the bright pink ball. The colour didn’t dim much, and it was easy enough to pick even in the latter stages of New Zealand’s innings. Its batsmen, however, would have wished that they had picked Starc better. Having supplanted Mitchell Johnson as the main pace threat, Starc dismissed Kane Williamson, Brendon McCullum and Mitchell Santner in nine hostile overs before an injury forced him off the field for scans. Cricket Australia later revealed that he had an early-stage stress fracture in the third metatarsal of his right foot, and would not bowl in the second innings.

The ground was already pretty full by the time play began at 2pm local time – there was no minute’s silence for Phillip Hughes, who died on November 27 last year, in deference to his family’s wishes – and it took just 20 balls for the pink orb to claim its first wicket. Inward movement from Josh Hazlewood got Martin Guptill into a tangle, the ball struck his back thigh, and the appeal was upheld.

Tom Latham, who played some beautiful cover drives, rebuilt along with Williamson, who started off in the same rich vein of form that saw him make centuries at Brisbane and Perth. But then Peter Siddle, picked ahead of James Pattinson as Johnson’s replacement, and Nathan Lyon started to choke off the runs, and the pressure mounted. Of Siddle’s first six overs, four were maidens, and Lyon induced frequent miscues, include one from Williamson that just flew over his outstretched arms.

Williamson made 19 off the first 19 balls he faced. In the next 39, he managed just three. Starc put him out of his misery with a round-the-wicket yorker that crashed into the pad. Ross Taylor, maker of that epic 290 in Perth, and Latham then took New Zealand to tea – now, the first break of the match – with 80 on the board.

It all unravelled in the half hour that followed. Latham, who had eased to an accomplished half-century in 92 balls, moved back to cut Lyon, and only found the edge through to Peter Nevill. Taylor inside-edged Siddle behind, and McCullum threw kitchen sink and crockery at a wide delivery from Starc. Nevill pouched the top edge easily enough.

Santner’s sprightly cameo of 31 frustrated Australia briefly before Starc pegged the stumps back with one that brushed the pads. BJ Watling, Mark Craig, Doug Bracewell and Tim Southee all got starts – eight New Zealand batsmen reached double figures – but there were to be no innings of substance as Australia kept chipping away diligently.

Craig was squared up and bowled by a beauty from Lyon minutes before dinner, and Watling then edged Hazlewood to Steve Smith in the cordon. Siddle, slightly more profligate after his opening spell, then got wicket No. 200 as Bracewell flicked to Burns at short midwicket. When Southee’s ugly heave failed to clear Warner at mid-off, Australia had wrapped up the innings on a perfectly decent surface that was something like as seam-friendly as had been predicted. 

When Burns, who averages less than 10 in first-class games under lights, played on to Bracewell to follow Warner back to the pavilion, New Zealand scented an opportunity to redress the balance. But Smith and Adam Voges shut that door with some resolute batting, as the hosts went to stumps only 148 in arrears. For them, this pink-ball lark had been, on the opening day at least, quite a lot of fun.

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