Sydney: Marnus Labuschagne (130 batting, 210b, 12×4, 1×6) hit his fourth century in just 14 Tests to guide Australia to a commanding position against virus-hit New Zealand on the opening day of the third Test here Friday.
The rock-solid No.3, last year’s leading Test run-scorer with 1104 runs at 64.94, again proved the Black Caps’ nemesis with his second ton of the series to continue his remarkable scoring sequence.
Supported by Steve Smith’s (63, 182b, 4×4) 28th Test half-century and David Warner’s (45), Australia reached stumps at 283 for three. Giving Labuschagne company was Mathew Wade (22 batting)
The South African-born Labuschagne has now scored four centuries in seven Test innings this southern summer against Pakistan and New Zealand.
Smith, who took 39 balls to get off the mark, shared a 156-run stand with Labuschagne before he again missed out after a lengthy stay and was caught at slip off Colin de Grandhomme.
Warner fell again to the leg-side trap on the third ball after lunch when he was caught by de Grandhomme at leg gully off Neil Wagner for 45.
It was the fourth time in the series left-armer Wagner has snared Warner, who is yet to reach a half century against New Zealand this summer after scoring an unbeaten 335 and 154 against Pakistan last November.
Opener Joe Burns was dismissed in the 15th over, squared up by De Grandhomme and caught by Taylor at first slip for 18.
De Grandhomme opened the bowling with Matt Henry after senior paceman Tim Southee was surprisingly left out of the attack.
Australia won the toss and chose to bat against the visitors, who made five changes to the team that lost the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne by 247 runs.
The Black Caps have gone into the game without skipper and star batsman Kane Williamson, who has been ill in the lead-up. Batsman Henry Nicholls and spinner Mitchell Santner were other illness withdrawals while Southee lost his place to leg-spinner Todd Astle.
Paceman Trent Boult is also missing after returning home with a broken hand suffered in the second Test in Melbourne.
Brief scores: Australia 283 for 3 (Marnus Labuschagne 130 batting, Steve Smith 63) vs New Zealand. Match to continue.