Marsh and Carey revive Australia’s hopes of series-winning chase

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Australia 256 and 174 for 5 (Marsh 55*, Carey 50*) need 105 more runs to beat New Zealand 162 and 372

Mitchell Marsh and Alex Carey thwarted New Zealand’s push for a famous victory with gutsy half-centuries to revive Australia’s hopes in the second Test at Hagley Oval.

Chasing 279 runs to clinch the series 2-0, Australia reached lunch on day four at 174 for 5 and needing a further 105 runs for victory.

The start of play was delayed by an hour due to rain, with Australia staring down the barrel after the loss of Travis Head in the second over. But as the sun emerged, Marsh and Carey bravely counterattacked and rattled together an unbroken 94-run partnership.

Marsh has made New Zealand pay after being dropped by Rachin Ravindra on 28 in the second over of the morning session.

Australia will remain confident with batting easier on this surface against the older ball with most of the damage being done with the new ball. Despite the earlier gloom, clear conditions are forecast for the remainder of the day.

Australia have only run down 279 or more in the fourth innings on 13 occasions and only twice since 2006, but did chase down 282 at Edgbaston in the first Ashes Test in June last year.

New Zealand have only beaten Australia once in Test cricket in the past three decades. They rotated their quartet of quicks before the offspin of Glenn Phillips was used before lunch and he had unsuccessfully reviewed an lbw appeal on Marsh.

New Zealand have been unable to stop the steady flow of runs as a drought-breaking victory remains in serious peril.

Resuming at 77 for 4 and needing a further 202 runs, Australia’s hopes seemingly rested with Marsh and Head who had combined for 43 runs late on day three after a top-order collapse.

There was intrigue over whether they would play aggressively from the get go with Head forced to play within himself before the close. In overcast conditions Marsh went for broke off Tim Southee‘s first ball when he hit a bullet to backward point only for Ravindra to drop a chance.

But New Zealand’s agony was short-lived when on the next delivery Head replicated Marsh’s full-blooded stroke and Will Young made no mistake at point. It completed a tough season for Head, who scored just 150 runs in 11 Test innings outside of his match-winning century against West Indies in Adelaide.

With Josh Inglis breathing down his neck, Carey’s place in the team has been in the spotlight having only made two half-centuries in his previous 18 innings. Buoyed by a record-equalling 10 dismissals by an Australian wicketkeeper, Carey looked solid as he quickly moved to 19 until he was given out lbw after being trapped on the knee roll by Matt Henry bowling from around the wicket.

But Carey was saved by the DRS with ball tracking deeming the ball to be sliding down the leg side. He calmly resumed his innings and kept the runs trickling along, but did have an anxious moment on 37 when Scott Kuggeleijn loudly appealed for caught behind. New Zealand unsuccessfully reviewed as their nerves heightened.

Entering the innings on the back of consecutive ducks, Marsh rediscovered his form from the Australian summer and pounced on rare loose bowling to notch his half-century with a boundary. Carey reached his fifty on the stroke of lunch to continue Australia’s rearguard.

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth

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