Australia needs seven wickets and New Zealand 362 runs on the final day of the first Test at the Gabba after the hosts forged ahead with bat and ball on the third and fourth days.
Resuming on 5/157 on Day 3, the Black Caps showed plenty of lower-order fight to reach 317. Kane Williamson produced a sparkling, defiant century and was the last man out on 140, while the likes of BJ Watling (32), Mark Craig (24), Doug Bracewell (16) and the injured Tim Southee (14) provided the brilliant No.3 with the support the middle order failed to.
Mitchell Starc was the chief destroyer with 4/57 from 17.2 overs, while Mitchell Johnson finished with 3/105 at an expensive five per over. Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon and Mitchell Marsh picked up one wicket apiece.
Australia flew out of the blocks in their second dig, with Joe Burns (129 from 123 balls) and David Warner (116 from 113) racking up thrilling centuries in a 237-run opening stand. The duo bludgeoned 21 fours and six sixes between them before spinner Mark Craig removed them both in consecutive overs.
Steve Smith lasted just two balls before becoming Trent Boult’s victim for the second time in the match, and Mitchell Marsh (2) fell to Craig (3/78) before bad light ended play with Australia on 4/264.
Smith sent the Kiwis in at the start of Day 4, set an improbable 504 to win the Test. They started impressively until a brilliant Starc yorker had Tom Latham (29) lbw with the score on 44.
Guptill was the next man out for a painstaking 23 off 133 deliveries as Lyon did the damage, leaving New Zealand precariously placed at 2/98. Williamson again looked set to be the backbone of the innings with an outstanding 59 off 74 balls, but Lyon struck again in the shadows of tea, sending him on his way lbw.
Rain, which had brought about an early lunch break on Day 4, washed out the final session to hamper both sides’ chances of a potential win.
The Black Caps will start Day 5 on 3/142, with veteran pair Ross Taylor (20 not out) and Brendon McCullum (5 not out) looking to perform a rescue mission.
Stud of the day
Day 3: It hasn’t taken long for Australia to uncover a replacement for Chris Rogers at the top of the order. Joe Burns played two Tests last summer against India at No.6, but looks at home opening alongside David Warner, following up a fine 71 in the first innings with a blistering maiden century in just 102 balls.
Day 4: Although New Zealand seems destined for a heavy defeat, Kane Williamson has enhanced his reputation as one of the world’s best batsmen. With his side under extreme pressure during each of his innings at the Gabba, Williamson kept the scoreboard ticking over, scoring 140 and 59 at a strike-rate of just under 80. A superstar.
Day 3: Burns authoritatively swatted Trent Boult over square leg for four on the second ball of Australia’s second innings, declaring his intentions for an unforgettable knock that ultimately drove the hosts to a 500-plus lead by the end of the day.
Day 4: Lyon’s capture of Williamson’s prized wicket was a killer blow. Taylor was nicely set and the pair were on course to put the tourists in a solid position by the end of the day, but the chances of a miracle comeback evaporated when Williamson departed.
With only a few showers forecast for the morning of Day 5, it’s unlikely the weather will save New Zealand. Australia’s bowling attack has been hungry and energetic throughout both innings and it’s difficult to not see them claiming the seven wickets they need to take a 1-0 lead. McCullum and Taylor are world-class performers, however, and if they can see the Kiwis through to lunch and beyond, who knows what may unfold?
But they would need to score at around four an over to pull off a world record chase, which brings with it inherent risks. Playing to survive for a draw isn’t in skipper McCullum’s make-up, so it will be intriguing to see if he stays true to his attack-at-all-costs ethos in the face of massive odds.
-Burns and Warner scored 398 runs together via a 161-run stand in the first innings and a 237-run partnership in the second – the fourth-highest tally of all time by an opening pair and just 17 runs short of the record held by South African duo Neil McKenzie and Graeme Smith.
-Burns and Warner became the first Australian openers to achieve two century stands in a Test.
-Warner became just the third batsmen in Test history to notch a century in each innings three times, after all-time greats Sunil Gavaskar and Ricky Ponting.
-Williamson’s 140 is New Zealand’s second-highest innings at the Gabba after Martin Crowe’s 188 in 1985.
-Guptill’s snail-paced strike-rate of 17.29 (23 from 133 balls) was the seventh lowest by a New Zealander in an innings of 120 balls or more.
-Australia’s run-rate across both innings of 4.75 is their seventh best in their Test history.