Tom Blundell dug in to frustrate Australia’s push to win the second Test and the series in Melbourne Sunday, with New Zealand’s makeshift opener grinding out a gutsy half-century to keep the match alive.
The Blacks Cap, chasing a massive 488 to win, were in serious trouble at lunch after a fiery James Pattinson ripped through the top order to leave New Zealand reeling at 38 for three.
Nathan Lyon claimed one more wicket but Blundell stood firm, steering his team to 131 for four at tea as they work to prevent a second successive four-day Test defeat.
Usually a wicketkeeper-batsman, Blundell was called up to replace the axed opener Jeet Raval and was not out 73 in only his third Test with BJ Watling unbeaten on six.
Henry Nicholls was the only wicket to fall in the session, cleverly stumped for 33 by wicketkeeper Tim Paine off Lyon just one ball after he smashed the spinner for six.
Despite Blundell’s resistance, New Zealand are staring at a second defeat in the three-Test series after being crushed by 296 runs in Perth.
No team has ever chased down more than 418 in Test match history, though the record was set against Australia by the West Indies in Antigua in 2003.
Pattinson, playing for the injured Josh Hazlewood, did the early damage.
New Zealand had reached 32-0 when he snared the key wickets of Tom Latham, batting linchpin Kane Williamson and the experienced Ross Taylor for three just runs.
AFP / WILLIAM WEST
Australian paceman James Pattinson (C) celebrates dismissing New Zealand batsman Tom Latham
Latham, scorer of a dogged 50 in New Zealand’s 148 first innings, fell for eight when he edged a thunderous delivery to the diving Paine.
Captain Williamson soon followed without scoring, out lbw after unsuccessfully reviewing the umpire’s original decision.
Taylor didn’t fare much better, dragging onto his middle stump to leave Pattinson with figures of 3-5 at lunch off just two overs.
Australian skipper Paine earlier declared Australia’s second innings on 168 for five after Travis Head was bowled by Neil Wagner for 28. Matthew Wade was unbeaten on 30 with Wagner taking 3-50.
They had resumed at 137 for four, building on their first innings 467.
It remains unclear whether Trent Boult will bat after his non-bowling hand was fractured by a Starc bouncer during his first knock.
He did not bowl Sunday and is due to return home when the Test is over, missing the third and final clash in Sydney.