New Zealand led Australia by 153 runs after the second day of their fast-moving second Test yesterday, aiming to build a decisive second innings lead after blasting the hosts out for just 136.
A total of 23 wickets have fallen in two days on a drying greentop wicket at Hobart’s Bellerive Oval, with a result looking likely before Tuesday’s scheduled final day.
The Black Caps, looking to redeem themselves after a nine-wicket surrender in last week’s first Test in Brisbane, were 139 for three at the close after taking a 14-run first innings lead.
Toward stumps, runs were coming more easily for the Black Caps on an improving pitch, with skipper Ross Taylor on 42 and Kane Williamson on 34 in an unbroken 66-run stand.
“I suppose 150 on that pitch on the first day has turned out to be a reasonable score for us and it’s quite difficult to say how the rest of the Test match will go, but 150 runs in front we’re feeling pretty good,” Black Caps paceman Chris Martin said.
The highest successful fourth innings run chase at Bellerive is Australia’s 369 for six against Pakistan in 1999, and Australia paceman Peter Siddle said the hosts still felt they could push for victory.
“I think it’s pretty even. The sun came out this afternoon and did up the wicket. The odd ball does keep low, but other than that the wicket is playing pretty well now,” Siddle said. “It’s a big session tomorrow morning. We have to come out strong and work hard to get a couple of early wickets and get them on the back foot and push on from there.”
Three Black Caps wickets fell after tea, with openers Brendon McCullum snapped up by Phil Hughes off James Pattinson for 12 and Martin Guptill caught behind off Siddle for 16.
Jesse Ryder carelessly fell to a leg-side stumping by Brad Haddin off part-timer Mike Hussey for 16.
Siddle and Pattinson helped Australia with a 56-run eighth-wicket stand after the home side lurched to lunch at 81 for seven.
Australia labored in their pursuit of the Black Caps’ first innings 150 and at one stage were on track to record their lowest Test total against New Zealand — 103 set in Auckland in 1986.
However, Siddle (36) and Pattinson (17) saved their blushes with their partnership as the pitch began to play more easily after its first-day demons.
New Zealand’s all-pace attack kept Australia under the gun with Chris Martin (3-46), Trent Boult (3-29) and Doug Bracewell (3-20) among the wickets. Australia lost six wickets in the extended morning session after resuming at 12 for one, following Friday’s loss of Hughes for 4.
David Warner survived only 17 minutes of the second day before nicking Martin to slip for 15 and Ricky Ponting (5) walked before he was given out LBW after playing Tim Southee across his pads.
It was the fifth time in his past six Test innings that the former Australia captain was out LBW and he has now gone 30 innings since his last Test century.
Ponting’s last big knock was 209 against Pakistan almost two years ago in Hobart.
Usman Khawaja’s 51-ball vigil ended when he edged Martin behind for 7, before Hussey bottom-edged a Boult lifter to the keeper for 8 to leave Australia reeling at 58 for five.
Haddin found McCullum at mid-off for 5, giving Bracewell his first wicket, then skipper Michael Clarke was surprised by low bounce to be bowled for 22.
However, Siddle and Pattinson steadied the innings before Siddle was caught in the slips and Pattinson fell in the next over, brilliantly pocketed in the gully by Williamson off Boult.