New Zealand opening batsman Tom Blundell defends as Australian captain and wicketkeeper Tim Paine looks on at the SCG yesterday. Picture: Andrew Cornaga/Photosport via AP
New Zealand opening batsman Tom Blundell defends as Australian captain and wicketkeeper Tim Paine looks on at the SCG yesterday. Picture: Andrew Cornaga/Photosport via AP

Test wrap: NZ fights hard but Marnus takes honours with 215

NEW Zealand had arguably their best day of the summer as they took 7-171 with the ball and went to stumps with no wickets down, but Marnus Labuschagne took the honours on day two of the third Test the SCG.

Labuschagne wrote his way into the record books as he capped off his glorious summer with a double century to put Australia in charge.

He hit a career-high 215 as Australia were bowled out for 454 on Saturday in extreme heat, before New Zealand fought back to be 0-63 at stumps with openers Tom Latham and Tom Blundell whittling the deficit down to 391 runs.

Labuschagne's fourth triple-figure score of the summer and first career double ton took his tally for the Test season to 837 runs, the most by any Australian for a five-Test home program.

He eclipsed Neil Harvey's prolific summer in 1952-53 against South Africa.

"That's very special, going past a player of that calibre," Labuschagne said.

  "It's hard because, when you're midway through a game or series, you don't have time to reflect on the summer that you've had.

 "It's been a very special summer but I think what makes it even more special is the camaraderie of this team."

  Labuschagne grew weary towards the end of his 519-minute stay at the crease, but still offered no real chance before he was caught and bowled by spinner Todd Astle (2-111).  

Marnus Labuschagne gestures after bringing up his double century on day two of the third Test at the SCG. Picture: Dan Himbrechts/AAP
Marnus Labuschagne gestures after bringing up his double century on day two of the third Test at the SCG. Picture: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

Dominant off his pads on the opening day, when he went to stumps unbeaten on 130, Labuschagne was strong on the drive down the ground and through the covers on day two.

He took 20 minutes to advance from 199 to 200, edging Colin de Grandhomme through the vacant slips cordon for four.

"You do get nervous," Labuschagne said.

 "You probably don't get nervous as you would on 99. I don't know why. But that's just the feeling.

 "When you're in the 190s, for me it's just about not doing something silly.

  "I was on 195, I played a charge, he (Latham) dragged it down and I went for a slog sweep and it went for one."  

The innings also helped his career average to 63.63, above Steve Smith's 62.84 and into second on the record list behind Sir Don Bradman.

Labuschagne drives beautifully on his way to a double century. Picture: Dan Himbrechts/AAP
Labuschagne drives beautifully on his way to a double century. Picture: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

It came as New Zealand's tour from hell went from bad to worse on the injury front, with the visitors already down 2-0 in the three-match series.

Scans confirmed paceman Matt Henry had suffered a broken thumb on day one and while he continued to bowl on Saturday, there was no guarantee he would bat.

Jeet Raval joined Kane Williamson, Henry Nicholls and Mitchell Santner in the sick bay, sitting out the first hour of play.

That even prompted batting coach Peter Fulton to wear the whites, running the drinks and ready to act as a substitute fielder if required.

But on the field, the Black Caps toiled hard under Sydney's hazy skies, with de Grandhomme finishing with 3-78 and adding captain Tim Paine (35) to his first-day scalps of Joe Burns and Steve Smith.

Matthew Wade (22) and Travis Head (10) threw away opportunities to make big runs when they went in the opening session.

Neil Wagner took 3-66, before Blundell (34no) and Latham (26no) did well to survive to stumps on a pitch that showed signs of uneven bounce.

Summary: The hosts resumed at 3-283 with Marnus Labuschagne on 130. Australia's form batsman eventually fell for 215, caught and bowled by leg spinner Todd Astle. Labuschagne's maiden double ton helped put his team in the box seat for another big win. However, NZ dug in and negotiated the final session without too many worries.

Man of the moment: Labuschagne made his fourth century of the Test summer one to remember. The first drop spent 20 minutes on 199, during which batting partner Tim Paine copped a few boos for failing to rotate the strike, but an edge through a vacant slips cordon brought up his most meaningful milestone yet.

Key moment: Paine reviewed Pat Cummins' caught-behind shout, at which point Tom Blundell was on 16 and NZ were 0-41. Third umpire Nigel Llong suggested there wasn't enough evidence to overturn the not-out verdict. Ricky Ponting felt that was the wrong decision, pointing to a faint mark on Hot Spot.

Stat of the day: Labuschagne's mountain of Test runs in 2019-20 now stands at 837. No Australian has ever scored so many runs in a five-Test home summer.

Quote of the day: "Always great to welcome a new member to the test double hundred club. Well batted Marnus." Jason Gillespie, whose final Test innings was an unbeaten 201 as nightwatchman in Bangladesh, on Twitter after Labuschagne's career-best knock.

News Corp Australia


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