Match Report:


Green’s special knock gives Australia platform on tricky pitch

The trans-Tasman Test series commenced with an enthralling day in Wellington, as Cameron Green's second Test century proved crucial for Australia

Enthralling start to series as Green leads Aussie fightback

Cameron Green's unbeaten 103 on a bowler-dominated first day of the opening Test in New Zealand might have saved Australia from another batting shortfall but, more significantly, it underscored why selectors were so determined to get him back into a reshuffled line-up.

Led by fast bowler Matt Henry's 4-43, the Black Caps threatened to knock over their highly fancied rivals for an under-par total before Green found willing allies in the lower order and launched a memorable assault moments before stumps to reach his second Test ton.

Green was on 91 when second-last man Nathan Lyon was caught behind off the final ball of the day's penultimate over.

With time and opportunity running out, Green then thrashed boundaries through mid-on and extra cover, took a wild swing that yielded nothing, before reaching his ton with a sweetly timed back cut with one ball remaining in the day.

Green's day: Allrounder reaches century in final over

"It feels really good, mostly because of the way we are with the team," Green said after stumps, noting that NZ finished the opening day marginally ahead.

"It was pretty tough out there.

"It was just one of those days that someone needed to stay out there, and I'm just glad it was me."

The allrounder had received treatment for what appeared to be cramping in his forearm before Will O'Rourke began the day's last over, but his three boundaries carried Australia to a stumps score of 9-279 for which he was largely responsible after they had slumped to 4-89 soon after lunch.

It was Green's best Test return since his maiden Test ton against India at Ahmedabad almost a year ago, and his first half-century since being recalled to the team after losing his place during the 2023 Ashes campaign.

Of greater significance was the circumstances in which this knock came.

Since being elevated to number four in the knock-on effect of David Warner's retirement, Green has gone to the wicket with less than 70 on the board and – in his three innings prior to today – the ball not yet 15 overs old.

This afternoon's score was the best platform he's been granted, but 2-65 after 31 shortly after lunch on day one is scarcely the scenario any Test number four would choose.

But as wickets tumbled freely at the other end, the 24-year-old kept the rampant NZ bowlers at bay before blossoming into a series of the powerful strokes for which he is rightly renowned in the final session.

His only real false stroke was a lofted drive that just cleared bowler Tim Southee's fingertips before speeding to the straight boundary to bring up Green's half-century from 109 balls.

Green says Shield prep crucial before ton, lauds Marsh

Green was involved in pivotal partnerships with fellow Western Australia allrounder Mitchell Marsh (67 for the fifth wicket), Alex Carey (20 for the sixth), Mitchell Starc (35 for the seventh) and Pat Cummins (33 for the eighth).

He struck 16 boundaries in his 155-ball stay, which came on a lively surface that was slightly soft when play began after being under covers for 24 hours prior to the start before drying out under the sun and south-easterly breeze at which point the indentations caused by the new ball began to harden.

The result was steepling bounce and exaggerated movement for NZ's all-pace attack, and a surface on which Green will doubtless much prefer bowling than batting despite his invaluable hand today.

Sent in on a typically green-tinged if strangely mottled Basin Reserve track, Australia's still-new opening pair Steve Smith and Usman Khawaja gave the impression that was a bad call by Black Caps skipper Southee as they posted the first 50-run stand of their nascent union.

But after Smith fell shortly before lunch, the NZ bowlers regrouped during the subsequent adjournment and emerged a vastly more potent threat than they had posed in the first two hours and scythed through Australia's faltering top-order.

Southee set the tone for the afternoon session, finding a fuller length to apply pressure which was maintained by second-gamer Will O'Rourke who bowled with fire and aggression, and recalled seamer Scott Kuggeleijn whose slightly round-arm delivery point proved a challenge.

It was Kuggeleijn who made the initial breakthrough after lunch when he ended Marnus Labuschagne's struggle after which the home team seized the initiative, claiming 3-24 from 11 and a half overs of high-class pace bowling to reduce the reigning Test champions to 4-89.

A typically expansive counter-punching knock from Marsh who blazed 33 at a run per ball in his 50-run stand with Green before tea briefly quietened the day one sold out crowd at the Basin.

But when Marsh (40 off 39) went early in the final session, top edging an attempted pull that ballooned into the gloves of keeper Tom Blundell, Australia were eyeing their lowest first innings score against the Black Caps since posting 224 in the inaugural day-night Test at Adelaide in 2015.

At 5-156 and with the ball still jagging about off the pock-marked surface, it was a frustratingly familiar predicament for a team that has not lost a Test in NZ since 1993.

In their past five Tests, Australia have averaged just over 106 for their first four wickets and it's been left to the middle order and tailenders to scramble their way to competitive totals.

The last time they managed more than 320 by the time the fourth wicket fell was the opening Test of the summer against Pakistan in Perth, and the lack of productivity has been particularly worrying from previous batting mainstays Labuschagne and Travis Head.

Labuschagne rarely looked comfortable during his 30-minute stay today against the swinging ball and, despite studiously leaving deliveries that threatened his outside edge, was eventually caught on the crease and nicked to slip having scored one off 27 deliveries.

His dismissal shortly after lunch was a significant strike for the Black Caps bowlers who had struggled to land balls consistently in dangerous areas during the morning session, and provided reward for their more disciplined efforts after the break.

Khawaja had waged an absorbing battle with Matt Henry during the first hour, managing only two scoring shots from the first 30 deliveries he faced from the right-armer – a boundary edged safely between the slips cordon and gully, and two from a clip past square leg.

The reigning ICC Test Player of the Year found some fluency prior to lunch to reach 28 (off 82 balls), but became becalmed upon resumption as O'Rourke peppered him with short balls and Kuggeleijn gained appreciable movement in the air.

He had survived a speculative review on 18 as NZ searched desperately for an initial breakthrough, but his luck ran out when – having scored just five from 36 deliveries faced after lunch – he aimed a drive at an in-swinging yorker-length ball from Henry that hit middle stump halfway up.

Henry's late swing rattles Khawaja's stumps

That brought Head to the crease fresh from a king pair in his previous outing against West Indies at the Gabba, and he survived the indignity of a third consecutive first-baller despite coming perilously close to nicking the opening delivery from Henry angled across him.

However, that was the manner in which he fell next over, fending at a ball pitched back of a length by O'Rourke that was gleefully accepted by Blundell.

Head's departure for one meant Australia had lost 3-27 in almost 15 gruelling overs after lunch, and it was again up to the last recognised batting pair Green and Marsh with help from the lower-order to right the flailing ship.

Cummins had claimed at the coin toss he would have bowled first if granted the option, but for the first two hours it appeared batting might not be as problematic as both captains had expected.

Averaging 60 in his fresh guise as opener coming into this game, Smith's first two boundaries were controlled edges past the slips but he quickly came to grips with conditions and was the dominant partner in his 61-run stand with Khwaja.

He might have been run out on 17 when sent back by Khawaja and losing his footing on the lush grass adjacent to the pitch as he hurriedly changed direction, but dived to safety as Rachin Ravindra's languid throw went to the non-striker's end.

It was one of the few chances NZ failed to grasp, another coming when Carey sliced a catch over the head of Glenn Phillips at gully and the fielder's athletic leap and one-handed attempt would be more fairly lauded for saving a certain boundary than dropping a catch.

But perhaps the most graphic illustration of Australia's struggles against the four-pronged seam attack – with specialist spinner Mitchell Santner overlooked in favour of Kuggeleijn – was the comparison with the Test played at the same venue a year earlier.

In that game, after being similarly sent into bat by Southee, Ben Stokes' England went to tea on day one 3-237 from 53 overs while at the same point of today's play Australia were 4-147 from the same number of deliveries.

However, as history reveals, despite their batting pyrotechnics and Bazball bluster, England ultimately lost that encounter … by one run.

Qantas Tour of New Zealand

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February 29 – March 4: First Test, Wellington, 9am AEDT

March 8-12: Second Test, Christchurch, 9am AEDT

Australia Test squad: Pat Cummins (c), Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, Matthew Renshaw, Steve Smith (vc), Mitchell Starc

New Zealand Test squad: Tim Southee (c), Tom Blundell (wk), Devon Conway, Matt Henry, Scott Kuggeleijn, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, Will O'Rourke, Glenn Phillips, Rachin Ravindra, Mitchell Santner, Neil Wagner, Kane Williamson, Will Young.