Grim Fight For Survival Today

Publish Date
Monday, 15 February 2016, 9:19AM
Getty Images

Getty Images

With two days to play in the opening test against Australia, New Zealand reached their capacity for survival at stumps on the third day.

The hosts are 178 for four and need 201 runs to make Australia chase in a fourth innings. Their original deficit had been 379 after Australia made 562.

New Zealand's test legacy in the Mike Hesson/Brendon McCullum coach/captain era fronts its toughest challenge today.

The batsmen's resilience, fitness and techniques face scrutiny as they attempt to extend on 13 tests undefeated at home, a record level with their predecessors feats' from March 1987 to January 1992.

New Zealand will need to muster similar concentration in the third innings to 2014 and 2015 against India and Sri Lanka at the same venue. They faced a 135-run deficit against Sri Lanka and 246-run deficit against India, but responded with declarations of 524-5 and 680-8 to win and draw those respective matches.

The final act of the day tipped the scales of hope against them. McCullum was adjudged lbw for 10 to Mitchell Marsh, ending hopes of another rearguard in his final test outing at the venue. The innings could not be resuscitated via DRS.

"It's a blow losing any wicket in the last over of the day," batting coach Craig McMillan said. "Especially when it's Brendon."

"We just knew that if we were disciplined, we'd hopefully get some opportunities," said Adam Voges who anchored Australia's total with 239. "To get McCullum means the changing room's pretty happy."

Debutant Henry Nicholls was 31 not out and will be joined by Corey Anderson this morning.

New Zealand lost too many wickets to pass their second innings examination with flying colours, but the white flag is not tethered to the mast either.

The match was played under the backdrop of a fire on the Mt Victoria hillside, but the Black Caps did not self-combust.

Amid the cacophony of sirens, Martin Guptill contributed a liberal 45 off 55 balls in an opening stand of 81 with Tom Latham. Latham grafted 63. Both played rash shots after getting deceived by Nathan Lyon flight.

"There's a couple of guys who would probably be disappointed with their dismissals," McMillan said. "But we're looking for guys to show intent and be aggressive."

Kane Williamson's dismissal for 22 inspired Australia, given his test performances have become a barometer to how New Zealand fare. Josh Hazlewood peppered him with balls in the channel outside off stump and one proved the right bait.

Voges extraordinary form, before being caught and bowled by Mark Craig, allowed him to complete a world record 614 runs between test dismissals. He overtook Sachin Tendulkar's 497. That left him with a test average of 97.46 from 19 innings.

He survived getting bowled from the controversial Doug Bracewell no-ball-that-wasn't on seven. Voges admitted not hearing the umpire's call, but never gave another chance.

"[The New Zealanders were] pretty good about it. They didn't say a lot. We just had to wear them down and it took until late yesterday [Saturday]. They have every right to feel a bit of grief."

"We've got to focus our energy on what we can do over the next two days," McMillan said in relation to the incident. "You have to say hats off to Voges, he got some luck and made the most of it."

From a New Zealand perspective, the morning highlight was Anderson's caught and bowled off Lyon. Thrown off balance in his follow-through, Anderson threw his left hand at the ball. It stuck as he somersaulted forward mimicking a vault dismount.

Each of New Zealand's specialist bowlers took two wickets.

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