Wagner lauds Smith's resilience after helmet blow
The bouncer was a key part of Neil Wagner's weaponry on day two at Hagley Oval, and a weapon that eventually brought him the wickets of Joe Burns and Steven Smith, but it also led to a moment of serious concern. On 78, Smith ducked into a short ball from Wagner and was struck flush on the helmet, falling face-down on the ground and requiring attention from team doctor Peter Brukner before being cleared to resume his innings.
After pausing for a few minutes to recover, Smith pulled his next delivery gamely for a single, and Burns faced out the remaining two deliveries of Wagner's over. It was the last over before tea and the break came at the perfect time for Smith, who in the words of Burns was able to "let the shock settle" for 20 minutes before resuming in the final session, and going on to post his 14th Test hundred.
"Not nice is it, it's a bit of a shaky feeling," Wagner said after play. "It's never anyone's intention to try and hit someone in the head and see them go down like that so I think a hell of a lot of credit to him to take a blow like that and stand up and bat the way he did shows the character of the bloke that he is. Credit to him he did pretty well from that. Hell of a knock.
"I ran up straight to him and he sort of flashed his eyes a little bit and I was a bit worried at the start, and then he said he's fine and he took a bit of time, which we all said make sure you take enough time and get yourself ready, we'll give whatever you need. So he did and he looked fine after that."
The New Zealand players all moved to check on Smith after the blow, as did his batting partner Burns, who was quickly joined by team physio David Beakley as well as Brukner, who assessed Smith on the field. Burns said Smith got a new helmet and used the tea break to "reset himself" after the incident.
"Certainly it's always a concern when you see someone get hit in the head," Burns said. "It got him quite flush as well, which was a concerning part. But fortunately the medical staff were out there very quickly and they gave him the all clear.
"Luckily the tea break was just around the corner, so it gave him a chance to sit down for 20 minutes and I guess just let the shock settle. And then yeah, he came out after tea and was 100%, so all good."
Smith went on to score 138 before he eventually fell to another bouncer from Wagner, which was pulled straight to Martin Guptill at square leg. Burns had fallen for 170 in almost identical fashion in Wagner's previous over, but not before his partnership of 289 - an all-time record for Australia in New Zealand - put Australia within touching distance of a first-innings lead.
"When you have a long partnership with anyone it's very satisfying," Burns said. "The fact that we just applied really basic game-plans for long periods of time is the most satisfying thing. But getting towards stumps we were talking about how we really wanted to be two down at stumps. I guess that's the disappointing thing, that we're four down, and it just changes the game a little bit."
However, New Zealand still have a considerable amount of work to do in order to restrict Australia's lead, with six wickets still in hand, only seven runs in arrears, and the prolific Adam Voges at the crease. Wagner said it had been hard work for New Zealand's all-pace attack on day two with the Hagley Oval pitch having lost some of its pace.
"It definitely slowed down quite a bit and the wicket definitely flattened out a touch," Wagner said. "But credit to Joe Burns and Steve Smith, they batted exceptionally well and never gave us a chance. I think we bowled well in patches and periods of time where we asked good questions. They just batted really well."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale