The final session of the day is almost upon us. The embarrassment that is modern over-rates means we’ll be playing through until 6pm local time (30 minutes later than scheduled) and we’ll still fall well short of seeing the remaining 40 scheduled overs bowlers.
Tea: New Zealand 131-4 (chasing 488)
After their calamitous morning session New Zealand regrouped well during the afternoon and Tom Blundell is growing into an impressive innings. Australia may yet have to return tomorrow to complete their series victory.
39th over: New Zealand 131-4 (Blundell 73, Watling 6) The runs are starting to flow for New Zealand now. Blundell earns four of them the hard way – all run – with a square drive off Cummins, then he smashes four more with a classical front foot push just wide of the diving mid-off. This is turning into a coming-of-age knock for the makeshift opener.
38th over: New Zealand 123-4 (Blundell 65, Watling 6) Pattinson is back on; T20 one-over burst stuff from Paine in the last half-hour or so, but it doesn’t work. Blundell smacks consecutive fours through the on-side, first through midwicket, then behind square, profiting on the bowler pitching too full and then too short.
37th over: New Zealand 114-4 (Blundell 56, Watling 6) Cummins replaces Pattinson from the Members’ end and he’s immediately driven calmly through wide midwicket for three by the busy Blundell. The strike is then rotated from four of the next five deliveries.
Australia have adjusted their field, taking out third slip and placing them at short cover for Watling and second gully for Blundell. Is that an acknowledgment the pace has left this pitch once the ball ages a little?
36th over: New Zealand 107-4 (Blundell 51, Watling 4) Lyon returns after just the one over from Cummins and he almost buys a wicket when Blundell mistimes a clip to leg onto his thigh pad but the ball loops behind square and not to the man fielding under his nose.
35th over: New Zealand 106-4 (Blundell 50, Watling 4) Pattinson is bowling a top-of-off spell so far but Blundell is up to the task, clipping a couple to the on-side when the line leaks a fraction onto the batsman’s pads, and then he reaches 50 by driving a long half-volley towards point for three more. Watling completes the two-three-four stepping stone of runs by drilling a gorgeous on-drive all along the carpet and into the sightscreen.
34th over: New Zealand 97-4 (Blundell 45, Watling 0) The ball change heralds Cummins’ return to the attack in place of Lyon. After Blundell nicks a single Watling defends stoutly.
33rd over: New Zealand 96-4 (Blundell 44, Watling 0) Pattinson replaces Starc from the Members’ end and he’s immediately into a tidy line and length against Watling. Four deliveries into his over there’s a conflab about the state of the Kookaburra and Nigel la la la la Llong invites the fourth umpire onto the field to furnish his heist movie metal suitcase full of replacements. The second ball of the over dovetails with the first to deliver a maiden.
32nd over: New Zealand 96-4 (Blundell 44, Watling 0) Blundell looks like he might just have singed a brain cell or two in this fierce heat. He’s looking increasingly skittish at the crease, especially against Lyon, who moves his man across the crease like a marionette in a testing maiden.
Can someone better than me at the internet do a remix of this featuring Nigel Llong? Please and thank you.
31st over: New Zealand 96-4 (Blundell 44, Watling 0) Blundell is living dangerously. After being beaten for pace with that LBW shout he then gloves a bumper down the leg-side that is only just out of reach of the diving Paine. He earns four for his troubles though, and three more with a nice checked drive down to long-on.
NOT OUT – Nigel Llong was right, the ball pitched outside the line of leg-stump.
REVIEW! Starc reckons he has Blundell LBW, Nigel Llong doesn’t.
WICKET! Nicholls st Paine b Lyon 33 (New Zealand 89-4)
Nicholls greets Lyon’s latest over by skipping down the pitch and belting him back over his head for six! Lyon responds by dropping his pace and executing a perfect off-spinning delivery that drifts in then spins away, beating the outside edge of a forward prod. So far so normal. But Paine is alert behind the stumps and whips off the bails in a flash, catching Nicholls with his back foot on the line, not behind it. The Aussie skipper tears away like Cristiano Ronaldo in celebration long before the DRS confirms the dismissal.
29th over: New Zealand 82-3 (Blundell 37, Nicholls 26) Starc is bowling with excellent rhythm but his over largely targeting the ribcages of New Zealand’s batsmen fails to engineer a chance. Again, Nicholls hints that his aerial clip off his hip could lead to his downfall.
28th over: New Zealand 81-3 (Blundell 36, Nicholls 26) Lyon is on top of his duel with Blundell, working the batsmen over from both sides of the wicket and almost inducing a play-on. The opener holds his own though, even nudging his first run on the off-side this innings.
27th over: New Zealand 80-3 (Blundell 35, Nicholls 26) Nicholls clips Starc off his hip for two and in so doing gives square leg a sniff of a chance, but it’s well out of reach. Australia trying to outmuscle New Zealand’s no.5 midway through this fourth day. Nicholls survives though, and alongside Blundell he has posted the touring side’s longest partnership of the series (in terms of balls faced).
Thank you very much Adam. My condolences on Peter Siddle robbing you of endless material. If you get nostalgic for the venomous vegan he has a series of instructional videos on YouTube. My favourite is the bouncer edition where he terrorises some patsy on a net wicket that should be roped off with crime scene tape.
26th over: New Zealand 77-3 (Blundell 35, Nicholls 24) The Australian fielders are talking loudly around the bat. Simon Katich, also on SEN radio, reckons they are discussing their respective Australian Rules football careers. As my OBO colleague Sam Perry rightly says, cricket is just footy in the summer these days. Lyon concedes four singles this time around, the final of those very, very close to a run out. Indeed, had Cummins hit from mid-on, Nicholls was gone by a long way. And after that moment of chaos, drinks are on the field. New Zealand have made it through the third hour without loss, which isn’t for nothing with both of these players trying to make a something of a statement before this Test is over. I’ll take this moment to hand over to JP Howcroft. Thanks for your company. Bye for now!
25th over: New Zealand 73-3 (Blundell 33, Nicholls 22) Another instance in 2019 of the stumps being hit by the ball without the bails coming off! As it happens, Starc was over the line anyway, called a no-ball as he sent it down. It found Nicholls’ inside edge, clipping the leg stump and ending up running away for a boundary with five added to the tally. He then makes it two in a row with a compact glance, beating fine leg again. A third boundary later in the over! It looked to have come off Blundell’s backside rather than his bat but it goes in the book as runs against Starc’s name. All told, 15 from the over after three maidens in a row. The final ball of the over was clocked at 152.4kph – whoa. “You’re having a laugh,” Brendon McCullum says of that reading on SEN radio. “That makes Henry Nicholls, who defended it easily off the front dog, the best player of fast bowling of all time.”
24th over: New Zealand 58-3 (Blundell 28, Nicholls 13) A silly point is brought in for Lyon to dissuade Blundell from lunging at the off-spinner. It works, the opener reverting back to playing him from the crease before using his feet the take the catchers out of range. Nice cat and mouse stuff. Three maidens on the trot.
23rd over: New Zealand 58-3 (Blundell 28, Nicholls 13) A new spell for Starc, a maiden to begin as it was with Lyon. He was well above 140kph throughout to Nicholls, who had to deal with the usual complement of short stuff in addition to a couple of probing deliveries aimed right at his stumps. He’s defending positively.
22nd over: New Zealand 58-3 (Blundell 28, Nicholls 13) Lyon immediately finds his range to Blundell, played with respect from start to end. A tidy maiden to begin.
21st over: New Zealand 58-3 (Blundell 28, Nicholls 13) Nicholls picks the right Cummins delivery to turn around the corner, beating long leg for four. Nice shot. Of course, the bouncer follows. He deals with it well. The next bumper is quicker again, ducked as soon as he saw it banged in.
The New Zealand fans are giving the Barmy Army chant a razz, which I’m all about. They have been fantastic throughout the week. The good news is that Cricket Australia are open to having them back again for Boxing Day soon.
20th over: New Zealand 54-3 (Blundell 28, Nicholls 9) Another strong lbw shout, Pattinson jagging back at Blundell and hitting him on the knee roll. Lyon at point says it is going over the top, which means he isn’t getting a review; the subsequent TV projection confirms this to be the correct call. We’re still waiting to find out from the New Zealand camp if Trent Boult will bat, by the way. I can’t imagine why he would unless there’s a realistic chance of them getting something out of it.
19th over: New Zealand 52-3 (Blundell 28, Nicholls 8) More good batting from Blundell, getting into position early to pull Cummins. There’s no real doubt how this game is going to end but there is plenty to be gained for the new opener.
Simon Katich is making some strong comments on SEN radio about the lack of tour games teams play before starting a tour in Australia, observing that it hurts the quality of the end product: the Test Matches. There was some fairly silly stuff floating around last week saying that the Black Caps should have been fine in Perth because they played England in Hamilton. That’s not quite how it works.
18th over: New Zealand 50-3 (Blundell 27, Nicholls 7) Shot! Blundell has pulled really well, this time getting on the top of the bounce off Pattinson, hammering it in front of square leg. Head, sweeping on that rope, had no chance of cutting it off. The visiting fans are happy as it brings up the New Zealand 50. Pattinson is much fuller to finish, beating the edge on the angle away from the left-hander.
17th over: New Zealand 46-3 (Blundell 23, Nicholls 7) Cummins to Nicholls now, locating his inside edge within two balls. He gets better through the over, ducking and leaving nice and early. A reminder: New Zealand’s target is (notionally) 488.
There are 17,725 people in the MCG, bringing the overall attendance to 201,477.
16th over: New Zealand 44-3 (Blundell 23, Nicholls 5) At last a productive over for New Zealand against Pattinson. For the new man Nicholls that is important as he searches for a way into his groove, pulling a couple of times through midwicket.
“I was an early-adopter of all things Siddle and I love the way he’s bowing out,” writes Robert Wilson, who I instinctively believe on this point. “I’d have been sad if it was a total retirement. It’s typical and somehow delightful that he’s going to crack on and try to get another 1st class milestone under his belt. He always reminded me of Boxer, the dray horse in Animal Farm – solid, patient, often poorly-used and impeccably herbivore. It’s in no way a diss. I once rode a dray. Size of a Sherman tank but the thing could truly move when it was in the mood, a horse that could take a hat-trick. I felt like a cork on a waterfall. Vale Siddle.”
Love. Now, this might be a bit much but, hearing him say that he will bowl till his body says no more, what if he goes around for four more years both in the UK and Oz? That would, dare I suggest it, bring 1000 wickets into consideration. Go on!
15th over: New Zealand 39-3 (Blundell 23, Nicholls 1) Gee whiz, Blundell leaves Cummins close to his body, the ball just clearing his off-stump bail. He goes for the inswinger at the timber next up, doing enough to beat the inside edge before hooping big down the legside. You don’t see him bowl with conventional shape through the air too often – he looks pretty happy with how it came out. Maiden.
14th over: New Zealand 39-3 (Blundell 23, Nicholls 1) Blundell gets one away off his middle stump into the legside to open his account for the session. Nicholls’ turn, looking pretty organised in defence, leaving well too outside the off stump. It prompts a shift to around the wicket with one ball to go, dealt with solidly.
The players are back! That means Pattinson is back. He now has 81 Test wickets at 25 apiece, really making the most of this excellent comeback. “Imagine he takes seven or eight?” says Damien Fleming on SEN Radio of his fellow Victorian. Dare to dream. Nicholls will be taking the first ball of this middle session. PLAY!
LUNCH: New Zealand 38-3
13th over: New Zealand 38-3 (Blundell 22, Nicholls 1) Nicholls is walking out on a King Pair but avoids that with a single, driven past Starc. Blundell, who picked up one around the corner earlier in the over, deals with the last couple of balls of the session, clipping a single to fine leg to finish. That’s LUNCH at the MCG, the Australians seven wickets from victory after a most productive 13 overs.
Meanwhile, what a nightmare of a tour this has been for New Zealand with the bat, and specifically the captain Williamson who has made 57 runs in four hits. He was pretty unlucky there. You don’t see many like that given out by the on-field ump.
WICKET! Taylor b Pattinson 2 (New Zealand 35-3)
Taylor chops on fourth ball! Nothing special about the delivery but there’s something special going on in this Pattinson spell – he has two wickets in the over and three scalps in nine balls.
12th over: New Zealand 35-3 (Blundell 20)
WICKET! Williamson lbw b Pattinson 0 (New Zealand 33-2)
Umpire’s call! Pitching on off-stump, the DRS projection showed the ball JUST touching the leg stump. Because he was given out on the field, it is good enough to send the New Zealand captain packing for a duck. Disaster for the tourists. And clever captaincy from Paine, swinging Pattinson around to follow Cummins.
HAS PATTINSON TRAPPED WILLIAMSON LBW? He’s given out on the field, the New Zealand captain taking his time before sending it upstairs. Stand by!
11th over: New Zealand 33-1 (Blundell 20, Williamson 0) Starc is straight back after Pattinson’s one, successful over. They must want him to have a crack at Williamson before the main man is set? Or changing ends? If the former, it doesn’t here, Blundell taking charge of the whole over. After prodding unsuccessfully at the first ball, he builds in confidence by the end – defending solidly; calling loudly.
10th over: New Zealand 33-1 (Blundell 20, Williamson 0) That’s rapid from Cummins to Williamson, flinging an accurate bouncer at his lid, the New Zealand captain swaying inside the line of it. No inch given throughout the over.