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Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Tom Latham, Tom Blundell start steady after Marnus Labuschagne's 215

Marnus Labuschagne punches the air as he reaches his double century Getty Images

New Zealand 0 for 63 (Blundell 34*, Latham 26*) trail Australia 454 (Labuschagne 215, Smith 63, Wagner 3-66, de Grandhomme 3-78) by 391 runs

Better than Sir Donald Bradman, better than Steven Smith, better than Neil Harvey. Marnus Labuschagne's astonishing home summer was crowned by a double-century at the SCG that vaulted him to 837 runs for the home Test summer, the highest tally for five matches by any Australian, bettering Harvey's 834 more than 60 years ago.

Australia, however, did not have day two of the New Year's Test all their own way, as New Zealand conjured the capture of Australia's last five wickets for 44 runs and then watched Tom Blundell and their stand-in captain, Tom Latham, put together a determined unbeaten opening stand of 63 in the day's closing 29 overs.

Labuschagne's first Test double-century had helped him form the backbone of Australia's first innings against a New Zealand side that was reduced to dressing up assistant coach Peter Fulton as a substitute fielder as illness stretched further across the squad.

Matthew Wade and Travis Head were tempted into errors in the morning session, but Labuschagne was content to take his time as only 71 runs were compiled by the hosts before lunch. He then waited patiently in the 190s opposite the captain, Tim Paine, who made 35 in a sixth-wicket stand worth 79 runs.

But from the moment of Paine's dismissal, bowled between bat and pad by Colin de Grandhomme, New Zealand fought well to restrict the Australians to 454, with the wristspin of Todd Astle looking particularly dangerous on a pitch that is starting to take some turn for the slow bowlers.

Latham and Blundell then weathered the new-ball bursts of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson, before Nathan Lyon gained some disconcerting spin out of a wearing pitch. The tourists' stocks had been thinned even further by the news that Jeet Raval was now struggling with flu-like symptoms, forcing Fulton into the whites to augment the touring team's options for fielding and running drinks out to the middle.

Their diligence in the field and with the ball was laudable in not allowing the Australians to get away, even as Labuschagne found the occasional boundary. There was one DRS referral by the tourists against Paine in the morning session, but Astle's suspicion of some pad before bat was proven a long way from reality by replays.

Wade had suggested on the first evening he might be the one to push the game forward, but the day was not yet an over old when he knelt down to sweep Will Somerville, misjudged the flight and was bowled. Once he heard the sound of the off stump knocked back, he angrily swatting his bat into the ground.

Head was a little more patient, corralled steadily by New Zealand from around the wicket, but he had made only 10 from 42 balls by the time he tried to cut a Matt Henry cross-seam delivery that was too close to his body and offered a thin edge behind to BJ Watling.

Labuschagne, though, was not deterred, cruising through to his third 150-plus score of the Test season, and looking good for plenty more. He had one nervous moment near lunch when he inside-edged Astle just past the off stump, but otherwise radiated an air of security that has been rare for Australian cricket in recent years.

The scoring rate was lifted by Labuschagne and Paine in early afternoon, as the SCG avoided the worst of hot temperatures of more than 45-degree C in western Sydney. But with Astle gaining extra turn and Wagner and de Grandhomme offering tight spells, Labuschagne was forced to slow right down in the 190s, with Paine even facing boos from the SCG crowd when he was unable to rotate the strike.

Eventually, Labuschagne was able to squirt an edge past Watling's gloves for the first double-century of his Test career. The innings brought a standing ovation from those in attendance and underlined just how much he had grown as a batsman and a cricketer since he first batted at No. 3 for Australia in the corresponding Test at the SCG against India last year.

Whatever hopes Paine may have had for extending the partnership were ended when he failed to cover a de Grandhomme offcutter, and Astle soon followed up a sharply bouncing googly by flighting a legbreak nicely enough to coax Labuschagne into offering a leaping return catch.

Pattinson was bounced out by Wagner, and Cummins flicked another Astle googly to Glenn Philips at short leg, before some brief Starc entertainment was ended by Wagner. This meant Australia's last five wickets had gone down for 44, a reminder that Labuschagne's feats were not achieved in a vacuum.

Australia's fielders were given plenty of reasons to be interested when Cummins' first ball kept low and beat Blundell, before his second jumped up to hit the opener on the arm from a good length. There was remarkably calm progress form there until closer to stumps when Blundell looked to drive a fuller ball from Cummins and a noise saw Paine use the DRS after Aleem Dar denied the caught-behind appeal. A mark on the HotSpot looked visible but escaped the attention of Nigel Llong, and New Zealand reached stumps unscathed.

New Zealand 4th innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
3TWM LathamTA Blundell
1JA RavalTWM Latham
18LRPL TaylorJA Raval
0LRPL TaylorGD Phillips
16LRPL TaylorBJ Watling
69C de GrandhommeBJ Watling
21BJ WatlingTD Astle
8BJ WatlingWER Somerville
0BJ WatlingN Wagner

ICC World Test Championship

TeamMWLDPTSWRpWr
INDIA770036032.897
AUS1072129621.604
ENG843111601.030
PAK41218010.765
SL41218000.589
NZ51406000.698
SA61503000.485
WI2020000.411
BDESH2020000.304