A well-set Kane Williamson looms as the final gatekeeper of note as Australia surge towards the No1 Test ranking in Christchurch with New Zealand 121-4 at stumps on day three of the second Test, trailing Australia by 14 runs.
The tourists need a win or draw to take top spot on the International CricketCouncil’s Test rankings.
James Pattinson snared three wickets on Monday, when he was booed by the Hagley Oval crowd after two animated appeals in the 34th over. Adopted son Brendon McCullum was the batsman on both occasions, with a bump-ball catch sparking a particularly scornful response from locals.
The final knock of McCullum’s international career ended the following over, when David Warner reeled in a spectacular one-handed catch at midwicket. Josh Hazlewood roared in delight, his previous delivery having been smacked for six, while McCullum received a standing ovation.
McCullum, who set a record in the first dig by smashing a ton off 54 balls, loomed as the man most capable of taking the game away from Australia.
Williamson remains 45 not out, giving his side hope of setting the visitors a decent target. But Australia are in the box seat to win the clash and grab a 2-0 series victory.
They claimed a first-innings lead of 135 runs thanks to a determined 289-run stand between Steve Smith and Joe Burns on day two. Adam Voges and nightwatchman Nathan Lyon, who scored 33, further demoralised New Zealand in Monday’s lopsided morning session.
Australia added 92 runs prior to lunch, although the Black Caps fought back after the meal break. Kiwi paceman Neil Wagner grabbed career-best figures of 6-106 to finally help bowl Australia out for 505.
There was a sense of déjà vu about the Wagner-inspired collapse of 41-5. Voges fell for 60 in the second over after lunch, while Mitch Marsh was out for 18 shortly after.
Both West Australians were out pulling short balls, as was the case with centurions Smith and Burns. Peter Nevill and Hazlewood were also undone by Wagner bouncers, guiding edges to keeper BJ Watling and first slip McCullum respectively.
Martin Guptill was out for a 12-ball duck but New Zealand otherwise saw off the new ball. Tom Latham did all the hard work and reached the 26th over, only to glove one down the leg side on 39.
Nevill snared the edge, as he did after a cracking delivery to Guptill that nipped off the deck. Henry Nicholls lashed at a wide ball on two, with skipper Smith claiming his third slips catch of the match.