Australia take 94-run lead, with Labuschagne supreme

Ben McKay |

Marnus Labuschagne has made a welcome return to form, scoring a valuable 90 in the second Test.
Marnus Labuschagne has made a welcome return to form, scoring a valuable 90 in the second Test.

Despite Matt Henry’s best efforts, Marnus Labuschagne powered Australia into a 94-run first-innings lead over New Zealand in the second Test in Christchurch.

Labuschagne, playing his 50th Test, made a superb 90 and looked set for a fighting ton until Glenn Phillips took a screamer at gully to remove him.

The 29-year-old’s knock was a fine tonic to a recent run of outs, coming into the Hagley Oval Test with six innings of 10 runs or fewer.

He was dismissed on lunch with the score 8-221, a 59-run lead, before Australia’s tailenders pushed the total to 256 all out, comfortably ahead of New Zealand’s 162 on day one.

Australia’s advantage came in the face of a mighty haul from Henry, who finished with 7-67 at his home ground.

Henry added nightwatchman Nathan Lyon (20) and Mitch Marsh (duck) to his day-one scalps before lunch.

After the main break, he dismissed Mitchell Starc (28) caught behind and Pat Cummins (23) lbw for the second seven-wicket effort of his career.

The 32-year-old, who bats at nine, is both New Zealand’s leading run-scorer and chief wicket-taker from the two-Test series.

Henry’s ferocity with the ball was in contrast to tame offerings from captain Tim Southee (1-68 off 18), Scott Kuggeleijn (0-30 off six) and Ben Sears (1-71 off 16).

Sears, playing his first Test, can at least look back on the scalp of Steve Smith from day one.

Cam Green.
In-form Australia batter Cam Green was one of Kiwi quick Matt Henry’s seven victims. (AP PHOTO)

On Saturday in a sun-soaked Christchurch, Labuschagne survived an early big lbw shout – which was reviewed – to notch his half-century, continuing on as other Aussie bats faltered around him.

Lyon attempted a drive but was caught at first slip by Daryl Mitchell, allowing the Kiwi to atone for putting down the spinner early in the morning.

Henry struck again in his next over by removing Marsh lbw.

The Aussie was initially judged not out, prompting Southee to use what could have been New Zealand’s last review.

Part-time spinner Phillips (1-14 off five) enjoyed success with his second ball, with Alex Carey (14) committed to sweeping, only to spoon a misjudged effort to Tom Latham at mid-wicket.

That dismissal is likely to heap pressure on the gloveman to retain his place behind the stumps when Australia resume Test cricket in November with a home series against India.

At 94, Australia’s lead was just shy of the target set by Josh Hazlewood at the end of day one.

“With the amount of seam movement, if we can get a triple-figure lead I think that’d be unreal,” he said

“If it flattens out, we’ll push and push for as many as we can get.

“But if the same movement continues, I think a 100 lead is a pretty good position.”

Australia lead the two-Test series 1-0 after a 172-run victory at Wellington’s Basin Reserve last week, and have already retained the Trans-Tasman Trophy.