Ponting half-century steers Australia
Australia 3 for 154 (Ponting 67*) trail New Zealand 295 (Vettori 96, Brownlie 77*, Lyon 4-69) by 141 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
After nearly two years without a Test hundred, Ricky Ponting gave himself every chance of completing one on home soil with an assured half-century that provided a solid platform for Australia at the Gabba. On an eventful day on which Daniel Vettori ran himself out on 96 and Michael Clarke was bowled off a no-ball, Australia finished in a reasonable position at 3 for 154, but New Zealand knew a couple of early wickets on the third morning would put them on top.
New Zealand had done well to post a competitive 295, thanks largely to Vettori and Dean Brownlie, who in his second Test remained unbeaten on 77. But after Australia lost both their openers cheaply, including the debutant David Warner in the second over of the innings, their recovery was encouraging for the home fans, though it was not without its nervy moments.
Ponting was nearly run out before he had scored when he was called through and then sent back by Usman Khawaja, who himself was caught short due in the first over after tea. Kane Williamson's direct hit had Khawaja on his way for 38, a disappointing end to a promising innings, and it was hard to avoid thinking that Ponting's call for the tight single was to blame, although a split-second hesitation from Khawaja also played a part.
When the umpires called play off due to bad light at 4.40pm, a decision that in itself added to the drama of the day as conditions appeared fair, Ponting was on 67 and had played some fine strokes, 44 of his runs having come through boundaries. There was a lovely pull off Doug Bracewell and a confident drive through the off side against Tim Southee, and his fifty came up with a four driven through extra cover off Chris Martin.
Ponting had survived a close lbw appeal against the part-time medium pace of Brownlie on 63, the not-out decision of the umpire upheld when New Zealand's review showed "umpire's call" for the impact on off stump and the ball clipping the top of the bails. Clarke, who went to stumps on 28, had also had a let-off, having played on to Bracewell on 23 only to have Asad Rauf check on a suspected no-ball, which was confirmed by the third official.
Little mistakes like Bracewell's overstep threatened to undo New Zealand's strong start in the field. The Australians had to face two overs before lunch and in the second, Warner was cramped by a well-directed shorter delivery from Tim Southee that brushed the gloves on the way through to the wicketkeeper as the batsman tried to evade the ball.
Soon after the resumption, the other opener Phillip Hughes was squared up by Martin and edged to gully, where Martin Guptill took a fine catch low in front of him, and Australia were in trouble at 2 for 25. At that point, New Zealand's 295 looked a long way off for the Australians, who had been frustrated by the Vettori-Brownlie partnership for much of the morning.
Vettori and Brownlie added 158, a stand that ended when Vettori suffered a brain-fade approaching what looked like becoming his seventh Test century and his first against Australia. On 96, Vettori took off for a suicidal single to mid-off and even his full-stretch dive wasn't enough to beat the direct hit of Michael Hussey.
Vettori pulled well against the fast men and brought up his half-century from his 70th delivery, while Brownlie remained solid and made Australia pay for the chances he gave on the first day. He brought up his fifty from his 121st ball with an impressive on-drive for four off James Pattinson. Brownlie tried to lift his tempo once he began running out of partners, but had to settle for a solid half-century, his second in two Tests, instead of his maiden hundred.
Nathan Lyon picked up four wickets and was the most consistently threatening of Australia's bowlers, spinning the ball sharply and using flight and guile in his first match of any kind at the Gabba. He wrapped things up shortly before the scheduled lunch break when he turned a ball through the gate and bowled Martin for 1.
Australia began to chip away at the lower order after Vettori ran himself out. The wicketkeeper Reece Young was caught at slip for 2 off Peter Siddle, Bracewell edged a Lyon topsinner to slip for a duck, and Southee, having slogged Mitchell Starc over the fence, was caught at long-on for 17 trying for another six off Lyon.
Southee and Vettori joined the long list of New Zealand batsmen who contributed heavily to their own dismissals. Whether such lapses cost them remains to be seen.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo