The square leg
Between Canberra and Melbourne there appeared to have been plenty of thinking done by New Zealand's captain Kane Williamson, particularly in terms of finding fresh ways to dismiss Australia's top order. One plan called for the placement of a shortish square leg in Henry Nicholls, with Trent Boult bowling a tight line designed to tuck up the batsmen. The gambit was tried first against Aaron Finch with rapid success, but the piece de resistance was the entrapment of Steven Smith for a duck. Boult waited a few balls before going around the wicket to cramp Smith for room, and Australia's captain proceeded to flick to Nicholls in a way that suggested he had been taken out of his comfort zone. Other teams may well take note.
The almost classic
Having clasped those two chances, Nicholls was pushed out to the leg side boundary as David Warner got going. The extra pace of Lockie Ferguson had discomforted Warner in Sydney, and the second-gamer did so again in Melbourne in coaxing a skied pull shot. Nicholls made excellent ground to get to the ball and for a moment seemed to have claimed a terrific catch, but it spilled out as he completed his dive. Seasoned New Zealand observers remarked how the catch, had it been completed, would have been very similar to one claimed by Martin Snedden - but not accepted by the umpires - off Greg Chappell in the infamous under-arm match on this ground in 1981.
Early in New Zealand's innings, Matthew Wade could be seen encouraging the use of bounce throws to get the ball making contact with the more abrasive parts of the MCG wicket square. As captain of Victoria, Wade has marshalled the Bushrangers' pacers to make the most of reverse-swing on this ground many times in the past, and he angled for it again this night. The reward came midway through the evening when Mitchell Starc sent a screeching, reversing yorker through the defences of Henry Nicholls. Instantly, Starc gestured gratefully towards Wade, having gained the sort of swerve made possible through the earlier groundwork.
The golden arm
Travis Head has grown in stature as a batsman during this series, involved in key partnerships in each match. But he is also adding increasing levels of value with the ball, thus taking up both the roles previously played by Glenn Maxwell in this team. Smith threw the ball to him with New Zealand's dangerous Martin Guptill still at the crease, and from around the wicket he tempted the opener to shell a catch to cover first ball. George Bailey held on to a difficult chance, and Head made a beeline for Smith to celebrate the wicket.