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Never-give-up New Zealand provide the contest we all hoped for

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'That's outstanding!' Wagner takes unbelievable catch (0:29)

Neil Wagner gets the key wicket of David Warner with a fantastic caught and bowled effort to leave Australia 75/2. (0:29)

New Zealand's greatest Test side ever (maybe). Ranked three spots ahead of Australia. A tour billed as their best chance for a series win here since 1985-86.

Trent Boult, the premier bowler and one of their best ever, is ruled out on the morning of the game. He averages 12.50 with the pink ball.

Kane Williamson loses the toss with temperatures approaching 40C degrees. He doesn't need to hear what Tim Paine says to know what's going to happen.

Australia close the opening day on 4 for 248. Marnus Labuschagne with his third century in three innings. Lockie Ferguson is in hospital having scans on a calf injury.

But New Zealand have been mighty impressive by refusing to let the game get away. Neil Wagner's short-ball plan gets the better of Steven Smith who laboured to 43 off 164 balls. The game changes in the final hour, darkness fully arrived, and the new ball hoops for Tim Southee.

Australia expected a challenge and they got one, the top order forced to work much harder against a disciplined attack than at any point against Pakistan.

In the absence of Boult, it's all eyes on debutant Ferguson. His first ball in Test cricket clocks 145.8kph then his 12th finds the edge of Joe Burns but falls short of second slip. Southee finds just enough nibble to keep the batsmen honest. Then Colin de Grandhomme thuds one into Burns' pad and he opts not to review, only for replays to show it was sliding down the leg side.

A few minutes before lunch, Wagner pulls of one of the great caught-and-bowleds when he gets down with his right hand after David Warner bunts back a low full toss. There was a mixture of shock and delight on New Zealand faces. After scores of 154 and 335 not out, Warner walks off in more modest territory.

Australia are 2 for 75: to put that into context, against Pakistan they are lost their second wicket at 351 and 369.

There is a period in the hour after lunch (it's back to traditional session names in this day-night, or twilight, Test) which produces the most compelling Test cricket of the summer. Ferguson forces a play-and-miss from Smith, then Wagner has him hopping against a short ball he fends to the off side. Alert fielding denies him from shots that may otherwise have brought boundaries.

It takes Australia 39 overs to bring up their hundred, but crucially that third wicket - which would open up the middle order for New Zealand - does not fall. Smith reaches 7 off 51 deliveries before tickling his first boundary and at the drinks interval tries out some new bats, seemingly uneasy about how he's going.

As the afternoon heat bakes down - the temperature dropping only a few degrees as the sun dips - the hard work of Smith and Labuschagne starts to bring more rewards. Smith plays a delightful whip wide of mid-on against Mitchell Santner; a short while later Labuschagne ramps Ferguson over third man to bring up another half-century in his prolific run, followed a pristine straight drive off Southee.

And then the agony. Smith, on 19 off 87, plays away from his body off the back foot against Ferguson, the ball flies off the edge to second slip where Tom Latham appears unsighted, is late to move, and the ball bursts through his hands. The chance to have a new batsman coming to the crease 20 minutes before tea, with an evening session under lights to come, is spurned.

A few minutes later the first glimpse of Ferguson's injury, which is confirmed early in the final session as the Smith-Labuschagne stand grows to commanding proportions.

Labuschagne moves into the 80s with a sweet clip wide of mid-on - a shot that is quickly becoming his trademark - and progresses to the 90s with the most deft of late cuts and a crunching pull off Wagner. Then he skips down the pitch to bring up his third century with just the second six of his career - the previous one coming in his first Test - also bringing up Australia's 200. It's been hard work, but they have worn New Zealand down.

Or have they? The plan is well telegraphed, as so often when Wagner has the ball, but still a batsman falls for it. And this time it's Smith. He goes to hook a short ball, can't quite get over the top and it goes straight to leg gully. The catch is much simpler than Martin Guptill's stunner at the World Cup, but the plan has worked again.

Armed with the glowing new pink ball, Southee bends one back at Matthew Wade who, a split second before hearing the clunk, will have regretted the decision not to offer a shot. New Zealand know this is their moment to earn rewards for the hours of toil. They strain every sinew, but Labuschagne and Travis Head make it through if not without alarms.

Australia have survived the witching hour; New Zealand have ensured the opening day of a series on these shores has not escaped them. It was the contest we all hoped for.