Labuschagne’s 90 puts Australia in the lead but Phillips lifts New Zealand

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Lunch Australia 221 for 8 (Labuschagne 90, Henry 5-60) lead New Zealand 162 by 59 runs

Matt Henry claimed another five-wicket haul and continued to keep New Zealand in the second Test, but Marnus Labuschagne held firm to emerge from a form slump until he fell agonisingly short of a century at Hagley Oval.

Labuschagne was dismissed for 90 on what was the last ball before lunch on day two when Glenn Phillips took a superb catch at gully off Tim Southee after leaping high to his right.

Australia reached lunch at 221 for 8 with a lead of 59 runs having lost four wickets in the session. Henry has again been the standout with 5 for 60 after being a shining light in New Zealand’s first Test defeat.

Australia’s stuttering batting-order once again haven’t been able to muster a formidable effort, but Labuschagne superbly anchored the innings in his 147-ball knock.

Labuschagne, who has only made two of his 11 hundreds away from Australia, had endured lean form over the last 12 months and seen his Test average drop below 50 having once soared above 60. He had suffered four consecutive single digit innings before this match.

New Zealand will want to wrap up Australia’s innings quickly after lunch with batting appearing easier amid sunny conditions. They have been playing catch up since their disastrous first innings of 162 and needed early wickets on day two with Australia resuming at 124 for 4 and trailing by just 38 runs.

Their desperation was evident from the get go when Southee unsuccessfully reviewed an lbw shout after Labuschagne was hit outside the line of off-stump by Henry.

New Zealand were left frustrated when Nathan Lyon, the nightwatcher, was dropped by Daryl Mitchell at first slip in a chance he should have taken above his head. It was a wicket Southee badly needed having taken just four wickets in his past three Test matches.

Lyon made the most of the reprieve and played attractively to underline his form with the bat having top-scored in Australia’s second innings in Wellington with 41.

Having scored the most runs in Test history without a half-century, with a highest score of 47, Lyon again eyed the milestone as Australia almost drew to parity.

But Lyon on 20 edged Henry to Mitchell, who made no mistake on this occasion in a relief for New Zealand. Henry continued his excellent series when he trapped Mitchell Marsh on the crease, but his loud appeal was turned down.

With just one review left, Southee was in a dilemma until he sought the DRS in the nick of time and it proved the right call with the decision overturned as Marsh fell for consecutive ducks.

Labuschagne held the innings together and his determined work in the nets in the lead-up has paid off with well-executed plans evident. He made an emphasis to counter the movement by getting across the stumps and hitting into his favoured on-side

But Labuschagne’s tactics of walking down the pitch, especially to Henry, raised the eyebrows of the umpires who on several occasions got together to discuss whether he was moving into the protected area of the pitch.

With his confidence restored, Labuschagne also hit some flowing drives marked by a boundary down the ground off Henry to bring up his half-century.

Debutant Ben Sears was surprisingly held back until just before drinks after impressing late on day one with hostile bowling and he claimed Steven Smith for a memorable first Test wicket.

But Sears was unable to unsettle Labuschagne as Southee turned to the offspin of Phillips, fresh off his maiden five-wicket Test haul in Wellington. It proved an inspired move with Phillips on his second delivery dismissing Alex Carey, who gifted his wicket with a poorly executed paddle stroke on 14.

With Josh Inglis breathing down his neck, Carey’s place in the team will further be in the spotlight having only made two half-centuries in his last 18 innings.

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth

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