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Australia on top after see-saw day

Nevill-Lyon partnership rattles New Zealand as visiting side ends day two at 116 for 5, 94 runs ahead

Australia on top after see-saw day - Cricket News
Australian team celebrates after taking a wicket.
The ball dominated in the early afternoon, and against at night under lights, but it was the middle session that saw a potentially match-winning partnership emerge. At the end of it all, New Zealand was 116 for 5, just 94 ahead after Australia had eked out a 22-run lead against the odds.

Australia had lost six wickets for 62 in the first session, but momentum swung towards the home side as Lyon and Peter Nevill added 74 in just 15.5 overs.

Nevill, who bats higher up the order for New South Wales, batted with tremendous composure and poise, but didn’t need to farm the strike as Lyon showed no lack of confidence. He swept and slogged at every opportunity, with one top-edged heave clearing the fence. He was finally out to Trent Boult for 34, with Australia 12 in arrears, but there was more pain in store for the visiting side.

Mitchell Starc had hobbled to the ground on crutches, and walked gingerly to the crease at Lyon’s fall, but there was nothing tentative about the 4-4-6-6 sequence that he peppered in the long-on-midwicket arc within a Mark Craig over. Doug Bracewell, who had bowled 12 impeccable overs for just 18 and watched the ninth-wicket partnership from the outfield, needed just one delivery to end the innings, as Nevill lofted one to deep cover, where Mitchell Santner took a superb low catch. Nevill, who had come in at 80 for 5, batted 110 balls for his 66.

Martin Guptill and Tom Latham had wiped off the deficit by dinnertime, but things went swiftly south for New Zealand as twilight gave way to floodlights. Shackled by the accuracy of Peter Siddle and Josh Hazlewood, Guptill – who finished with 82 runs for the series – played an expansive drive at one that left him a touch. The thick edge was safely taken by Mitchell Marsh at gully.

Latham, who had been similarly becalmed, was undone by a full and wide delivery. Again Nevill held on to give Hazlewood a second wicket. Kane Williamson then edged behind a peach of a delivery from Mitchell Marsh, leaving Taylor and Brandon McCullum with the task of navigating a safe course to stumps. Neither, however, is circumspect by nature, and the strokes and runs started to flow, especially through cover.

But with the ball moving prodigiously under lights, such a riposte couldn’t last. Again, it was Marsh’s golden arm providing the big breakthrough, with McCullum rapped on the knee-roll as he came forward. The captain, after consulting Taylor, reviewed, but the replays only resulted in further cheers from the vast majority of the 42,372 inside the Oval. Minutes later, it was 98 for 5, with Taylor – who had rattled to 32 at a run a ball – not even bothering to review after Hazlewood, just reintroduced into the attack, arrowed one into the pads.

Few would have imagined that happening after a first session that went like a dream. Adam Voges added just four to his overnight nine before Tim Southee got one to straighten and take the edge to third slip. Shaun Marsh was then run out in comical circumstances. McCullum dived to his left at mid-off, stopped the ball brilliantly and was then up to throw down the stumps at the bowler’s end.

When Mitchell Marsh nicked Bracewell behind, it was 80 for 5. Through it all, Smith had played a captain’s knock, but the loss of wickets seemed to inspire the frazzled charge at Craig that was wonderfully taken by Watling off the inside edge. Siddle then popped one up to short leg, and Hazlewood yorked himself to give Santner a first Test wicket.

It was all as rosy as the evening sky for New Zealand, but instead of a swift denouement, Australia secured a lead, and forced it to resume batting in shadow rather than in sunshine. Even the sight of Grant Baldwin, the masseur, fumbling in the field – James Pattinson, the 12th man, was released to play Sheffield Shield cricket in Perth – wouldn’t have lifted the spirits.

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