All the action as the Black Caps play Australia in the third and final test - their first match at the Sydney Cricket Ground since 1985.


Premium gold

They began the day with no Kane Williamson, no Tim Southee, and no Trent Boult – and as darkness fell in Sydney, the Black Caps were left with no hope.

If this has been a series from hell, then today was the definitive darkest day, as the Black Caps barely scraped together a functional XI to play the third test against Australia at the SCG, and then watched as Australia won the toss and cruised to 283-3 by stumps.

READ MORE:
Live updates: Black Caps v Australia, third test
'Never seen anything like it': Black Caps physio reveals grim scenes
'Staggered': McCullum stunned by Black Caps' bizarre call
Live: Rate the Black Caps in the final test

Advertisement

By the end of the day, there were as many Black Caps in isolation at the team hotel (three) than there were wickets for New Zealand to celebrate, as Marnus Labuschagne (130 not out) and Steve Smith (63) put Australia, once again, in total control.

Without skipper Williamson and key batsman Henry Nicholls – both unable to play due to a viral infection - and considering just how badly the Black Caps batsmen have struggled all tour, it would be a surprise to see the visitors even surpassing Australia's day-one score, let alone whatever mammoth total is on the cards.

Williamson and Nicholls were just two of the five players to drop out from the Boxing Day test. Mitchell Santner was also struck down by the bug, while Boult had fractured his hand in Melbourne. However, the biggest surprise was the curious absence of Southee, with the Black Caps opting for two new spinners – Will Somerville and Todd Astle – as well as seamer Matt Henry, arguing that Henry was fresher after Southee's recent heavy workloads.

Joining those three bowlers in the XI was debutant Glenn Phillips – who only flew in the night before as emergency cover – and Jeet Raval, who averaged 7.3 in his last nine test innings, but earned a re-call out of pure desperation.

The five changes saw the Black Caps lose 215 caps, 9,666 runs and 547 wickets, and that missing experience and talent was brutally on display as Australia dominated day one. Colin de Grandhomme did manage to remove Joe Burns with an edge to Ross Taylor at slip, and Neil Wagner's legside attack picked up another victim at leg gully, this time David Warner, to pin Australia back to 95-2.

That was as good it got though. Henry's test bowling average has ballooned to 51 from his 12 tests, and must be nearing last-chance saloon after failing to take another new-ball opportunity, while Somerville was surprisingly expensive and Astle unthreatening.

The trio combined for grim figures of 51-1-169-0, adding to the Black Caps' woes, and it created equally-grim scenes where the Black Caps would make a bowling change to replace a test bowling average of 51 (Henry) with a test bowling average of 66 (Astle).

It was hard to expect the Black Caps to dominate, or even be competitive, considering that massive gulf in talent – this was the first test the Black Caps played without Williamson, Southee or Boult since 2009 – but that doesn't change the fact that unless one of their batsmen steps up in a significant way, the Black Caps will be on their way to a third consecutive thrashing.

Advertisement

Labuschagne and Smith ensured that's the most likely outcome. Remarkably, the pair both currently hold test averages over 60, with Labuschagne bringing up his fourth hundred in five tests as the pair added 156 for the third wicket.

The Black Caps bowlers were either too loose (the spinners) or bowled too full (Henry and de Grandhomme) as the pair cashed in. Labuschagne had three edges fly through a thrice-vacant third slip, while Smith took 39 balls to get off the mark and had brief troubles against Wagner, who was again the best on show with 21-6-48-1.

De Grandhomme eventually removed Smith with the second new ball, but Matthew Wade strolled out to bash him for 14 in his final over of the day. It was, alas, the conclusion the day deserved.