Cummins leads Aussies’ charge to dismantle Kiwis
Melbourne, Australia - Pat Cummins put further daylight between him and next-most prolific bowlers of 2019 with another display of supreme pace bowling as he claimed 5 for 28 to help dismantle New Zealand on the third day at the MCG. James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc shared the other five as Australia took a huge 319-run lead before opting to extend that rather than enforce the follow-on
Cummins was on a hat-trick at the start of his second over of the day when he removed Ross Taylor and Henry Nicholls and Pattinson’s first blow left New Zealand 5 for 58 with the only question being how huge the deficit would be. In the end they were bundled out for 148, the first time they had been dismissed for under 200 in three consecutive innings since the 2007 tour of South Africa. Only Tom Latham, who faced 144 balls, passed 20 with a half-century of significant guts and determination but the rest of the New Zealand batting could not withstand the pace and consistency on display as their hopes of at least keeping series into Sydney all but vanished. To compound their woes, Trent Boult was ruled out of the final Test after he suffered a fractured hand when hit by Starc while batting.
The rest of the day was a curious display from Australia who steadily increased their lead without showing much intent. There was a moment of huge personal satisfaction for Neil Wagner who claimed his 200th Test wicket - the second-fastest New Zealander to the mark behind Richard Hadlee - by removing Steven Smith for the fourth time in four innings when Smith helped a short ball off his hip to backward square leg. It will not make a difference to the result, but it’s a tale Wagner will be able to tell for years to come.
New Zealand’s ambitions at the start of the day rested on Latham and Taylor but that lasted just 12 balls as technique and ticker was tested with every delivery. The first ball of Cummins’ second over drew Taylor into a flat-footed drive with the thick edge flying quickly to Marnus Labuschagne at third slip where it was parried into the air and settled comfortably for Joe Burns at first. Next ball, Cummins came around the wicket to Nicholls and pinned the left-hander lbw with the review from Nicholls showing it would have hit the top of leg stump.
With the roar of the MCG crowd behind him, Cummins ran in for his hat-trick ball but B J Watling was able to keep it out. However, having managed to get onto the front foot a couple of times, Watling was not able to survive much longer when Pattinson, who was equally impressive on home soil, produced a beauty that bounced from short of a length and took the shoulder of the bat to first slip.
The bleeding was momentarily stopped by Latham and Colin de Grandhomme - helped by a surprising over for Matthew Wade which cost 13, four more than Cummins conceded in his initial five-over spell - as Latham continued to show great composure in the face of the onslaught. de Grandhomme was less convincing and it was not a huge surprise when he fended an edge to gully off Starc.
Two balls later Starc, and the rest of the Australians, became convinced they had another when Mitchell Santner fended a bouncer to leg gully. It was given not out on the field by Marais Erasmus and Tim Paine reviewed. As more replays came through the Australians become more sure, and with good reason, that it had brushed the wrist band before coming off the arm guard but eventually third umpire Aleem Dar said there wasn’t conclusive evidence to overturn. Paine was far from impressed and had a lengthy discussion with Erasmus.
It did not have much of a material impact on the proceedings as Santner managed 3 off 32 balls as he was peppered by the short ball, a working over which ended when he edged a full delivery from Pattinson. By then Cummins had halted Latham's dogged display when the opener’s concentration lapsed for a moment, chasing a ball with some width, and he completed his five wicket haul when Tim Southee provided Paine with his fifth catch.
There was some merriment in the final-wicket stand as Wagner stood up to the short ball and Boult showed various techniques not in the coaching manual, but there was a heavy price to pay for Boult before he was bowled by a Starc yorker.
After just 55 overs, New Zealand’s seamers were asked to strap on the bowling boots again. Australia were not too fussed about pressing the accelerator which led to soporific period either side of tea although whenever Wagner had the ball it was good viewing.
David Warner tried to get a move on but slapped a short ball from Wagner to cover, Labuschagne was run out from short fine leg and, after briefly opening his shoulders with crisp straight six off Southee, Burns edged behind off Santner.
Wagner was immediately brought back to bowl at Smith and all it took was four balls. Admittedly Smith had indicated that he was looking to press on, but there was a look of anguish and disappointment when he found the fielder. Teams around the world will have taken note, but whether they can pull it off as effectively as Wagner remains to be seen. That head-to-head battle has gone New Zealand's way, but the team one is emphatically with Australia.
David Warner (left) and Pat Cummins celebrate after dismissing New Zealand’s Tom Latham