Australia v New Zealand Tests
Taylor, Williamson dominate day three
Black Caps duo combine for the highest Test partnership against Australia in run-fest at the WACA Ground
Andrew Ramsey at the WACA
15 November 2015, 11:55 PM AEST
For 17 minutes on the third morning of the second Test, a window briefly opened during which the ball stood a chance of holding the whip hand over the bat.
But that worm hole was closed when the engineers in this hub of heavy mining machinery managed to free the sightscreen that was stuck faster than a top-order batsman on the friendly WACA pitch and the game proceeded to produce runs and records in almost equal volume.
Having spent almost two energy and morale sapping days in the field as Australia rattled up 9-559dec, the New Zealand batters - led by a flawless double-century from Ross Taylor and an equally sublime hundred from Kane Williamson – enjoyed a chance to inflict some pain of their own.
WATCH: Taylor's record-breaking knock
It enabled the Black Caps to finish day three at 6-510 having reduced Australia’s hefty first innings to a deficit of just 49 on a day when the only trouble a batsman potentially had in sighting the ball with rare clarity came when the sightscreen likewise refused to budge.
It’s doubtful that Williamson, 80 not out at the time on his way to a memorable 166, would have found too many difficulties finding the middle of his bat had Mitchell Starc’s decision to change his attack to around the wicket put him directly in front of a red brick outhouse.
Such is the benign nature of a pitch that bared its fabled fangs just once today, in the final half hour of an evening session pushed close to dusk by the extra time added on to make up for the machinery fault.
But the star NZ batsman quite rightly stood his ground until the proper amenities expected of a Test venue could be put in place, and the fact that edged the next delivery on the bounce to second slip was more a case of having to re-start his innings rather than any suggestion ball was mastering bat.
WATCH: Starc's lighting over that broke McCullum's bat
The one that did misbehave – a bouncer from Mitchell Johnson that caught the edge of a fault line slowly opening along the length of the pitch and bounced wickedly over ‘keeper Peter Nevill’s head for five wides – would not have gone unnoticed by the canny Black Caps skipper Brendon McCullum.
Should the crack open up further and others appear over the next two days, batting last would carry about as much appeal as did bowling on it in 39C heat as the Black Caps did yesterday, so any lead that the tourists can pocket tomorrow will be dearly cherished.
Regardless of how the final two days play out, this match will be remembered for the quality of batsmanship brought by Taylor and Williamson after David Warner and Usman Khawaja – who will miss Australia’s next two Tests with a hamstring tear – on the opening day.
Taylor’s career-best 235no was not only the highest posted by a visiting batsman in 45 years of Test cricket at the WACA, it was the most productive individual innings against Australia’s bowling attack since Alastair Cook posted the same score in his rampant Ashes summer of five years ago.
The former NZ captain came into this match amid suggestions he was vulnerable against Australia’s pace attack and uncomfortable when the ball bounced above chest height given his pair of comparative failures in Brisbane.
But on a pitch that is supposed to sort out the cutters and pullers from the front-foot specialists, Taylor not only found form emphatically but at times managed what most close observers felt impossible in the current day – he outshone Williamson.
WATCH: Starc clocks 160.4kph
With a minimal backlift and timing that sent the ball scorching across the outfield whenever he was given width to exploit or length on which to lean, Taylor showed not only comfort but at times disdain for an Australia attack that only appeared potent when Mitchell Starc was operating.
Taylor’s only lapse in an innings that, like Warner on Friday, filled an entire day came on 137 when he slapped a chance off a Starc thunderbolt - in the midst of his spell that produced the fastest recorded delivery in Test history at 160.4km/h - high and right of Mitchell Marsh in the gully.
That Marsh got both hands to the Exocet was a testament to his transition as a close catcher but the fact that almost travelled to the boundary rope with it added another blemish to a fielding day that coach Darren Lehmann might feel replicated the Brisbane effort that he described as "pretty average".
It’s not often that Williamson, unarguably one of the premier batting talents of world cricket, is left in the shade but in addition to his 12th Test century at the age of barely 25 he can lay claim to having played the stroke of a day that contained few bowling highlights apart from Starc’s spell.
It was the second of two consecutive boundaries off Mitchell Johnson, who apart from pushing past Brett Lee’s mark of 310 to be Australia’s fourth-highest Test wicket-taker of all time endured a forgettable day to finish with 1-131.
The least impressive Test figures he’s returned in Australia on a ground that has hosted several of his greatest triumphs.
With two men stationed less than two metres apart at short cover, Johnson sprung the trap to have Williamson caught playing his favoured off-drive in the air and pitched full and wide with his bait.
To which the Kiwis batting prodigy responded by stepping out and smearing the ball with laser-like precision between the two stunned fielders and executing a cursory attempt at a single as the ball sped to the boundary.
WATCH: Williamson scores Test century No.12
Rarely has a WACA pitch born witness to such temerity against one of the game’s foremost fast bowlers.
But this is no traditional WACA pitch, as lamented by one member of the Australia attack who was overheard at his fielding station on the boundary noting that it was more fun signing autographs for fans leaning over the fence than "bowling out there".
An assessment that seems unlikely to change in a Test that David Warner has already predicted will go to the final session of the final day on Tuesday.