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New Zealand leaves Australia reeling at 4-76 in second Test run chase

Tim Southee enjoys his catch that dismissed Usman Khawaja on Sunday in Christchurch.

Tim Southee enjoys his catch that dismissed Usman Khawaja on Sunday in Christchurch. Photo: Getty

New Zealand is in the box seat to claim a drought-busting Test win over its arch rivals after Australia wilted on day three of the second Test.

Chasing 279 for victory, Matt Henry and debutant Ben Sears ripped through the Australian top order at Hagley Oval on Sunday, leaving Australia dazed at 4-34.

Travis Head and Mitch Marsh survived a mighty onslaught through to stumps, but at 4-76 and with 203 remaining for victory, Australia has it all to do.

New Zealand flipped the script on decades of Australian trans-Tasman Test dominance on day three in Christchurch, cashing in on a day that held rich promise.

Mitchell Marsh was made to work hard to protect his wicket on day three at Hagley Oval. Photo: Getty

Resuming at 2-134 and just 40 ahead, the Black Caps knew a strong second-innings total would set them up for a first home Test win over Australia in 31 years.

Rachin Ravindra (82) and Daryl Mitchell (58) tallied half-centuries to set the tone, joining Tom Latham (73) and Kane Williamson (51) who reached 50 on Saturday.

Even Scott Kuggeleijn made a contribution with the bat, slogging 44 off 49 to frustrate the Australian attack.

New Zealand’s final total of 372 was more than double its previous efforts with the bat through the two-Test series.

Australia bowled without penetration on a wicket which improved session by session through the Test.

Pat Cummins offered eight of the Aussie XI the chance to bowl, including Marnus Labuschagne who earned a bronx cheer when he offered up a rank short-pitched wide with his first ball.

Cummins led the way with 4-62, including the wickets of half-century makers Williamson, Ravindra and Latham.

Nathan Lyon joined the party late, taking three of the final four wickets to finish with 3-49.

Most of Australia’s wickets came from edges, with Alex Carey levelling an Australian all-time record with 10 catches behind the stumps.

Ravindra drove New Zealand forward, beginning on 11 and ticking the Kiwi lead into triple figures by dancing down the wicket and slogging Lyon to the long-on boundary.

Upping his scoring rate, the 24-year-old notched his half-century with a straight drive off Mitch Marsh.

Ravindra faced criticism for two ordinary first-innings dismissals this series, but in both Tests has rebounded with second-innings 50s.

He combined with Mitchell for a series-best 123-run stand which had New Zealand sitting pretty at 3-278.

Both were caught behind soon after Australia took the new ball.

Tom Blundell (9) followed when Marnus Labuschagne dived well at cover, only for the Australian No.3 to drop Kuggeleijn in the slips cordon when he was on two.

Kuggeleijn and Glenn Phillips added another half-century partnership, making Australia’s fourth-innings ask all the more difficult.

If the flattened pitch offered hope to the Australian bats, Henry and Sears soon extinguished it.

Henry, picking up from a first innings haul of 7-67, was unplayable at times in a nine-over spell from the Botanical Gardens end, claiming both openers.

The 32-year-old trapped Steve Smith (9) plumb in front, while Usman Khawaja (11) was brilliantly caught by Southee at third slip.

On his first Test outing, Sears had Labuschagne (6) caught and bowled off a leading edge, just two balls after Mitchell dropped a sharp chance at second slip.

Cameron Green (5) was beaten for pace by Sears and played on.

While Marsh and Head steadied the ship in the final half hour, Australia remains a long way from home.

Defeat for Australia would see a second-straight drawn series, after the disappointment of the home West Indies series last month.

For New Zealand, it would salvage the series at 1-1, and earn that elusive success that a generation of Kiwis are yet to taste.

-AAP
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