Ravindra and Mitchell put New Zealand into strong position

1xC Team

Lunch New Zealand 162 and 243 for 3 (Ravindra 67*, Mitchell 42*) lead Australia 256 by 149 runs

Tom Latham‘s bid for a maiden century against Australia was cut short by a hard-working Pat Cummins, but Rachin Ravindra and Daryl Mitchell relished a sedate Hagley Oval surface as New Zealand’s lead grew in the second Test.

After Latham fell for 73 early on day three, Ravindra and Mitchell combined for an unbroken 88-run partnership as New Zealand reached lunch with a lead of 149 runs. In what had been a bowler-dominated series, batting has looked relatively comfortable amid sunny conditions with no sign of the menacing seam movement from earlier in the match.

After being dismissed for just 162 on day one, New Zealand have fought back ever since as their under-pressure batting order reached 200 runs for the first time in the series. Ravindra and Mitchell scored briskly, but will be determined to kick on after lunch and continue to make Australia toil.

After capturing just two wickets in the series before this innings, Cummins has bent his back and again showed his knack for making things happen on flat surfaces. Having bowled a terrific spell late on day two, where he claimed the key wicket of Kane Williamson for 51, Cummins was the standout and looked threatening despite the pitch offering little assistance.

Australia used seven bowlers in the first session with Nathan Lyon, who only bowled two overs in New Zealand’s first innings, unable to conjure much turn at a ground where spinners have traditionally had limited impact. The part-time spin of Travis Head was tried before lunch, but he could not provide a breakthrough.

As expected ahead of the match, the surface has flattened out with conditions unlikely to deteriorate for the remainder of the match. New Zealand will likely need a big lead as they seek a rare victory over Australia having won just one Test against them in the past three decades.

Resuming at 134 for 2, Latham hoped to make Australia pay after he was dropped late on day two by wicketkeeper Alex Carey. Latham also eyed a first Test century against Australia having already overtaken his highest previous score of 63. He entered the innings with an average against Australia of just 27 compared to an overall mark of 40.

Latham looked unruffled as he confidently picked off the bowling with little movement on offer for the seamers. But his bid for an elusive century against Australia ended when Cummins, bowling from around the wicket, cut through him with a delivery that reared sharply off the surface. It appeared to take Latham on the back pad and there was only a half-hearted appeal from behind the wicket, but Cummins decided to review after consulting with Carey.

It proved the right call with replays confirming a nick from Latham to spark Australia after a quiet start to the day’s play.

For the first time in the series, Mitchell entered with New Zealand well positioned in a perfect chance for him to showcase his aggressiveness. In an intriguing battle, Mitchell countered Lyon’s bid to tie up an end by unfurling his reverse sweep and he also confidently skipped down the wicket to whack him over long-off for six.

Ravindra too used his feet to Lyon as New Zealand’s lead raced past 100 runs. He brought up his half-century in style with a classic straight drive to the boundary off Mitchell Marsh, who was brought on late in the session.

Ravindra started to lose concentration close to lunch, but he held on and will have a second Test century in his sights after the interval.

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth

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