Australia collapse to 467 after Head century

Melbourne, Dec 27 (AFP/APP): New Zealand snatched five quick wickets to bowl out Australia for 467 on day two of the second Test in Melbourne Friday, with Travis Head top-scoring with 114.

The home team went to tea at 431 for five and seemingly in charge, but the momentum dramatically shifted as they collapsed within nine overs of the restart.

The visitors need to win to square the three-match series after crashing by 296 runs in the opening day-night clash in Perth.

Skipper Tim Paine was out for 79 seven balls after tea, with Mitchell Starc gone soon after for one. Head, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon rapidly followed with Neil Wagner (4-83) and Tim Southee (3-103) doing the damage.

Australia had started the day at 257 for four with Steve Smith on 77 and Head not out 25.

Head came into the match under pressure after a lean spell, but silenced his critics with only his second Test century.

The middle-order batsman reached three figures off 222 balls, raising his arms and looking to the sky as he celebrated.

It was a patient innings from the 25-year-old, who made his debut against Pakistan last year and scored his only other century (161) against Sri Lanka in Canberra.

After reaching his ton he began hitting out and finally fell to a Wagner full toss, slicing it to give Mitchell Santner a simple catch.

He was ably supported by Paine, who played an array of shots to notch his seventh Test half-century off just 72 balls.

The 35-year-old had a golden opportunity to score a maiden ton, but he blew it soon after tea, out lbw to Wagner after a review.

That brought Starc to the crease, but he lasted just three balls before spooning a Southee delivery to Kane Williamson at mid-off.

Cummins and Lyon managed just one run between them with James Pattinson left not out 14.

It was a big turnaround for New Zealand who were buoyed after snaring the vital wicket of Smith for 85 before lunch, but then failed to capitalise.

Smith looked set for a 27th Test century and his fifth in as many Tests at the Melbourne Cricket Ground before a Wagner bouncer ended his 242-ball knock.

It had been slow going as pace spearheads Trent Boult, Southee and Wagner kept the batsmen in check, with Smith adding just eight to his overnight score in more than an hour before he was out.

Wagner had been peppering him with short balls and one ballooned off Smith’s bat handle and glove with Henry Nicholls taking a fine one-handed catch at gully.

While deprived of another ton, it marked a return to form for a player who, uncharacteristically, had gone five innings without a 50.

The Black Caps are playing their first Boxing Day Test in Melbourne since 1987, with skipper Kane Williamson winning the toss and opting to bowl.

Australia win toss and bat against New Zealand


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