116th over: Australia 349-5 (Labuschagne 180, Paine 6) It doesn’t look pretty this field for CdG but you have to change it up when an innings has been going this long, nearing an interval. Watling makes a lovely take down the legside, quickly whipping the bails off – he appeals but Paine never moves his back foot. The all-rounder brings out his outswinger next, locating the outside of Paine’s bat, steered behind point. Warne and Gilchrist are talking about average speeds for legspinners as they look at Astle, who is sending them down at about 85kph. The best there is reflects on Stuart Macgill: “Good bowler. Gave it a rip.” Love that stuff.
115th over: Australia 346-5 (Labuschagne 178, Paine 5) “Yeah, one!” calls Labuschagne when taking a single through point to retain the strike at the end of the Astle over… he now even sounds like Steve Smith. All told, five risk-free runs from it, the Queenslander closing in on 185 – his highest Test score.
114th over: Australia 341-5 (Labuschagne 174, Paine 4) de Grandhomme, who opened the bowling yesterday, is on for his first go today. To Labuschagne, he has no conventional slips but Ross Taylor is in position at leg slip, with Latham up to the stumps. A bit different but the all-rounder makes it work for him, all stump-to-stump. He also finds the inside edge with a tidy inswinger. Useful first set.
113th over: Australia 340-5 (Labuschagne 173, Paine 4) After getting through that appeal, Paine makes contact with the middle of his bat a few times in the over while defending before putting away a half-tracker past point to get off the mark.
NOT OUT! Yeah, that’s not a good review. The noise that Watling detected before the ball hit the bat was the blade hitting the pad. They have no reviews left. Watling smiles upon realising that, on reflection, it really wasn’t much of a shout.
HAS ASTLE TRAPPED PAINE LBW? Aleem Dar says no but Tom Latham is sending it upstairs. Stand by.
112th over: Australia 336-5 (Labuschagne 173, Paine 0) Watling is very keen on a leg before shout to start Henry’s over, Labuschagne shuffling across his stumps and working it down to fine leg, hitting pad before pat. No review. He defends the rest of another accurate over. It’s been a very good spell.
As we move towards lunch, give me your hottest takes on four-day Tests. I’ve already said that I can’t have it. Not full-time. I don’t mind them being used to enable Tests that wouldn’t otherwise happen, but to make them compulsory for the next round of the World Test Championship is a whole other thing. Go!
111th over: Australia 334-5 (Labuschagne 171, Paine 0) My man, Todd Astle! Welcome to the attack! The leggie has added a face-full of sunscreen to his balding head, sunglasses and bouncy action. He finds Labuschagne’s edge too, albeit played with soft hands. Down the track, the Queenslander clips two to keep the scoreboard going in his direction, taking another that way before the over is done.
110th over: Australia 331-5 (Labuschagne 168, Paine 0) Henry staight on the mark to Paine, now back over the wicket after winning the Head wicket angling in from around. From a selfish perspective, Labuschagne needs his captain to go with him here in order to make sure that he can advance to 200 and beyond. To finish the successful over, Henry finds Paine’s inside edge for a second time. Excellent and gutsy bowling from a man who is racing in with a broken thumb.
Well bowled Matt Henry! He earned Head’s edge there after such a consistent spell, the South Australian trying to get his first run for half an hour with a cut too close to his body, taken comfortably by Watling behind the wicket.
109th over: Australia 331-4 (Labuschagne 168, Head 10) Glorious from Labuschagne when dancing at Somerville, lifting him straight back over his head after getting to the pitch of the delivery. The special part was in the control, checking the shot so to get the desired result while eliminating risk. He’s so good.
108th over: Australia 327-4 (Labuschagne 164, Head 10) Henry doesn’t come close to penetrating the Labuschagne forward defensive for the first half of the over so he changes to around the wicket. It makes no difference. The pitch map shows that the bowler did nothing wrong, hitting a very consistent line and length, but there’s no exposure for the No3 here. He has some huge numbers ahead of him.
107th over: Australia 326-4 (Labuschagne 163, Head 10) Labuschagne won’t let the morning drift, rocking back this time to cut Somerville for two before coming forward to flick him wide of mid-on for another single. This reminds me a bit of Warner in Adelaide. He won’t have the time to do what the opener did there but there’s the same punishing accumulation, defined by rapid running. Superstar.
106th over: Australia 323-4 (Labuschagne 160, Head 10) Right, we’re back from a long drinks interval, understandably so given it is over 33 degrees already in Sydney and only getting hotter. Just the one run added here, via Labuschagne off his pads. Jeet Raval is back on the field. After an hour off the park, there he is.
… or the OBO!
105th over: Australia 322-4 (Labuschagne 159, Head 10) Somerville completes the first hour. Operating again from around the wicket he has Marnus missing a sweep to begin, prompting a half-appeal for leg before. He’s deeper in the crease later in the over, pulling two, before pushing another single into that gap. Head deals with the rest. Only 33 runs in the hour with a wicket, to New Zealand’s credit. But to seriously give themselves a chance of avoiding a day in the dirt they need Labuschagne right away or there’s a good chance he’ll still be going at tea.
104th over: Australia 319-4 (Labuschagne 156, Head 10) Henry to Head, driving nicely along the carpet without risk to start, adding three. Labuschagne resets after launching at Somerville in the previous over, playing the seamer conservatively. He keeps the strike with one into the covers. More good batting.
Fulton, of course, is one of many sportsmen who have been dubbed Two Metre Peter. Think Crouch, Street, George, Wright. I’m sure there are others.
103rd over: Australia 315-4 (Labuschagne 155, Head 7) Up and over mid-off, Labuschagne takes Somerville from around the wicket, inside-out for four more. He’s shifting up the gears now, picking his moments regardless of the delivery.
Good grief, another illness for New Zealand. Jeet Raval, the opener unexpectedly recalled yesterday, is off the field with the flu. Peter Fulton, the 40-year-old former Black Caps batsman, has his whites on to field if required. What a mess.
102nd over: Australia 309-4 (Labuschagne 150, Head 6) Wish a push into the covers and a quick single, Marnus Labuschagne has made it to 150 for the third time this summer. Daddy Hundreds, he loves them. Earlier in the Henry over, into the attack for the first time today – bowling with a broken thumb – he played a delightful on-drive down to the boundary. His 14th boundary in a stay of 253 deliveries that shows no sign of ending soon. Surely he makes it a double ton.
101st over: Australia 304-4 (Labuschagne 145, Head 6) Somerville continues, Head waiting for a ball outside his leg stump before using his blade, taking one to midwicket. Labuschagne does likewise to finish, negating the turn and angle from round the wicket by using his feet to get to the pitch, flicking a further single.
100th over: Australia 302-4 (Labuschagne 144, Head 5) Another little milestone for Australia, moving beyond 300. It’s been harder work than they might have expected this morning, losing Wade to begin, but a huge day still awaits. Sure enough, they didn’t get there easily with Wagner bowling, angling into Labuschagne’s inside edge for the third time in the last four overs.
99th over: Australia 298-4 (Labuschagne 140, Head 5) Labuschagne turns the strike over early in the over with a compact sweep before Head continues to leave everything he can outside the off-stump as he plays himself in. No rush here. That’s one of the many reasons why I’m well against the move for compulsory four-day Tests: there’s something meaningful to be found in quiet spells. Anyway, I won’t go on about it as this is all inevitable now that CA are banging the drum.
98th over: Australia 297-4 (Labuschagne 139, Head 5) Wagner finds Labuschagne’s inside edge for a second time in this first half hour. It’s now Head’s turn to take a look at New Zealand’s number one, leaving both the short and full stuff well alone.
97th over: Australia 296-4 (Labuschagne 138, Head 5) Shot! Head rocks back early at Somerville and has enough time to get on top of the bounce with a cut shot, racing away to the rope. Shot of the morning so far. He plays the rest carefully.
96th over: Australia 292-4 (Labuschagne 138, Head 1) Controlled accumulation from Labuschagne, easing Wagner through point for a couple with no bat swing at all – all timing. Oh, as soon as I type that he plays and misses at a delivery he had no need to play, well outside the off-stump and swinging further away.
95th over: Australia 290-4 (Labuschagne 136, Head 1) I wonder if Somerville was just coming on for an over to mix it up at the start but was kept on because of the wicket? Regardless, this is turning into a very useful spell. Head gets off strike early in the over with a push, using his feet – not without risk. Good flight. Labuschagne gives the strike straight back with a sweep – no issues there. He gets two more chances at the left-hander, who goes back then forward in defence.
94th over: Australia 288-4 (Labuschagne 135, Head 0) I mentioned off the top that New Zealand have done well to tie Australia up on the first morning of the second day at Perth and Melbourne. Wagner, on again here, doesn’t give it up. This is another disciplined over to Labuschagne, giving him nothing short of a length before sending down a full inswinger, which the dominant Australian number three tried to drive but ended up playing off the inside edge into his ankle. Ouch.
93rd over: Australia 288-4 (Labuschagne 135, Head 0) A probing over from Somerville to the new man Head, including a big shout for lbw when his arm-ball goes on with the angle beyond the inside edge and into the pad. No review but good early signs for the tall spinner. What a great story him playing this week.
92nd over: Australia 288-4 (Labuschagne 135, Head 0) Wagner continues his spell with this second new ball from last night, sticking with his usual approach with the field spread on the legside and banging in from around the wicket. Labuschagne is taking a look, letting the left-armer come to him, defending solidly when he does. A gem from my press box colleague Tommy Decent, noting that Labuschagne’s live batting average is now above Steve Smith’s. Whoa!
And here’s that Wade dismissal from the previous over.
Bowls him sweeping! Wade has thrown away a big chance there, having a crack at Somerville from around the wicket but missing the ball, crashing into off-stump. He’s gone without adding to his overnight score. A lovely moment for the veteran tweaker, his name into the book on his old New South Wales home ground.
91st over: Australia 288-4 (Labuschagne 135)
Earlier in the over, it only took three balls, Labuschagne dancing down the track and hammering Somerville over midwicket for four runs. Just as it was when he walked out yesterday, he’s hitting the ball in the middle of the bat straight away.
The players are on the field. Labuschagne bounces past the flags, leading Wade to the middle. “It looks like a good batting surface but it is definitely going to deteriorate,” says Simon Katich on SEN radio. The offspinner, Will Somerville has the ball in his hand to start this second day to the man on 130. PLAY!
How the track looks.
Injury update from the Black Caps. Matt Henry broke his thumb yesterday when stopping a booming Joe Burns straight drive in his follow-through. Not fun. We’ve been told that he will bowl but I’d be surprised if they send him out to bat.
More from Kevin Roberts. Let’s cut to the chase: he wants four-day Test Matches. “You’ve got to remind yourself that Test cricket hasn’t always been played over five days,” and so on. He says there is no “pre-ordained outcome” to the work they are doing at the moment but we all know how this one is going to end. Sigh.
Another excellent fundraising option is the auction being held by Russell Jackson, formerly of this parish. In addition to being a wonderful cricket writer, Russ is a great collector. He is putting one of his gems, a cricket bat signed by ten former Test captains, to auction. Bidding is up to $1200, which is a steal if you ask me. The process is straightforward, as he details here. Spread the word!
Kevin Roberts, Cricket Australia’s chief executive, is on SEN Radio. Off the top he says there are options being looked at for fundraising in addition to what has already been initiated with the playing shirt auction, which is building well. It sounds like they are open to hosting a charity game, which would be fantastic. Of course, there was one held at the MCG after the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami.
Roberts also notes that the second half of today might be impacted by air quality, requiring the players to be taken off the field. He says that the match officials will be charged with the responsibility of making that decision, based on the measurements that are available. He adds that they did look at moving the date or venue of the Sydney Test but were comfortable at going ahead this week.
If looking for something to listen to as we work towards the first ball, Geoff Lemon and I recorded a New Year’s Eve ep of The Final Word. It includes a chat with Paul Sinclair from the Australian Conservation Foundation, various best/worst lists from an eventful 2019 and our 2015-2019 team of the WBBL.
Morning everyone. Just as it was yesterday, there is a cloud hanging over this Test, and across the country, as Australia wakes up to a truly harrowing weather forecast for the day ahead. Of course, it is going to be impossible to concentrate entirely on the cricket as news comes in from Victoria and New South Wales, but I’ll try my best to keep things as normal as possible on here, for what it’s worth.
When play does resume at the SCG it’ll be with Australia in a predicably commanding position after winning the toss yesterday and tucking in against the discombublated New Zealanders. Marnus Labuschagne will walk out on 130 – his fourth ton in five Tests – with Matt Wade looking to go big by his side, scampering to 22 from 30 balls last night before the close. This could get huge and quick.
The best the Black Caps can do is dry up the scoring, as they were able to with some success on the second morning at Perth and Melbourne. Despite the misadventure this tour has been, they have broadly kept their act together with the ball – especially Neil Wagner. Not much more can be asked of the southpaw.
Right, I’ll leave it there for the moment. As I said off the top, this is going to be a terrible day and there’s no avoiding it. If you want to talk about that, the cricket or anything else, feel free to drop me a line or ping me a message on twitter.