By Niall Anderson in Melbourne
Star Australian batsman Steve Smith believes the Black Caps bowlers present an unprecedented challenge, but he may have solved their difficult puzzle.
After dismissing Smith twice with short-pitched bowling in Perth, the New Zealand seam attack attempted to repeat the dose at the MCG, but Smith was up to the task, offering few chances when facing the short ball, and building a composed innings to resume tomorrow unbeaten on 77.
"I thought I pulled quite well – I enjoyed the red ball, it certainly reacts a bit more consistently off the wicket than the pink ball with the short stuff, so that was nice," Smith reflected.
"I've been faced with something a little bit different in this series, the way the fields are set and the way they've gone about it, and I was happy with the way I was able to get through it and score some runs on what I felt wasn't the easiest of wickets to bat on."
• Boxing Day battle: Australia get lucky v Black Caps
• Watch: Southee's stunning catch removes kingpin
• Live: Rate the Black Caps in the Boxing Day test
• Kiwi fans tear into 'livid' Steve Smith after on-field spat
Smith revealed just how dangerous it can be to play the short legside attack, especially with the catcher-laden, legside-heavy fields that the Black Caps set alongside it.
"It takes a lot of patience, just the way they set the field up – there's not a whole lot you can do, and it's risky to play the pull shot.
"So it's just a patience game, wear them down, obviously [Neil] Wagner's got a serious tank, he just keeps on doing it, but at some point hopefully he's going to get a bit tired. I'll just keep trusting my instincts, and get out of the way when I can."
Black Caps bowler Trent Boult was disappointed his side couldn't claim a few more wickets after opting to bowl first, but credited Smith with negating their unique strategy.
"I thought he played really well, he looked to defend as many balls as he could, hung in there, and he's built himself a nice little innings. It's turned into a very good wicket now, so it's about being patient, keep that pressure on and hopefully draw an error out of him.
"He wants to feel bat on ball and keep the score ticking along, if you can keep him on strike then that's one way to get him frustrated, but when he leaves well, defends well, and plays quite straight, then he doesn't give you too much."
While the Black Caps were left frustrated by several edges that didn't go to hand, Boult was pleased with a reasonably restrictive display which leaves New Zealand with a chance of holding Australia to a below-par first-innings total - if they can finally dismiss Smith.
"It's definitely turned into a good surface now. We tried to stay as patient as we could and I suppose on the positive they haven't got too far ahead of the game in terms of runs on the board.
"Hopefully we'll get a couple early wickets and see what happens."