Niall Anderson details five talking points from day two of the Boxing Day test between the Black Caps and Australia.
A banner year
With figures of 4-83 in the first innings, Neil Wagner brought up 40 test wickets in 2019 – the fourth-most of any bowler. It has been a remarkable bounceback from his 2018 campaign – 14 wickets at 39.2 – and he became the first New Zealander to take 40 wickets in a calendar year since…. Neil Wagner in 2016, making him the first New Zealand bowler to reach the landmark twice.
Here are the New Zealanders to take 40 wickets in a calendar year, since you were definitely asking:
64 - Richard Hadlee (1985)
54 - Daniel Vettori (2008)
47 - Chris Cairns (1999)
46 - Trent Boult (2013)
41 - Neil Wagner (2016)
40* - Neil Wagner (2019)
Additional fun fact: When Hadlee took 64 wickets in 1985, the next best bowler, from any country, was Craig McDermott. With 36.
The amount of balls bowled in first-class cricket by Tom Blundell before he was thrown the ball for three overs after lunch on day two. A desperation move by captain Kane Williamson, it drew memories of Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill bowling in the first innings against Australia in Perth in 2015. Blundell, who had bowled off-spin at age-group level and has been bowling in the nets, threw down some rough long-hops but also had a ball beat the bat of Travis Head. Why Williamson didn't bowl himself remains a mystery.
Australia's bowlers had just 16 deliveries with the new ball before they had to go fetch a replacement, after a Mitchell Starc delivery flew off a length, past the gloves of wicketkeeper Tim Paine, and to the boundary for four byes – where it smacked into the roving television camera. A new, similarly aged, ball was required, but there were no problems for the Australian bowlers, as Pat Cummins picked up their first wicket 18 balls later by dismissing Blundell.
Ross Taylor resumes unbeaten on two, needing another 47 runs to surpass Stephen Fleming and become New Zealand's all-time test run scorer. You would back Taylor to reach the historic milestone in this test match, but will it be in this innings? Taylor already survived being given out lbw with a successful review late on day two, and he'll have his work cut out for him on day three against the dangerous Australian attack.
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Who's on top?
It was undoubtedly Australia's day, and the Black Caps are going to need a big effort with the bat to avoid staring down the barrel of a second hefty - and series - defeat.