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AFP
December 14, 2019

Smith blinder puts Australia on top

Sports

AFP
December 14, 2019

PERTH: A stunning catch by Steve Smith snared the prized wicket of Kane Williamson as Mitchell Starc tore through the New Zealand top order on the second day of the first Test in Perth on Friday.

Smith dived horizontally to his right at second slip to take the catch to remove Williamson for 34 from the bowling of Starc, just when it appeared New Zealand were fighting back well after losing their two openers with only one run on the board.

After Australia posted 416 in extreme heat on the back of a third successive Test century for Marnus Labuschagne the Kiwis were struggling at 109 for five in reply at stumps, still 307 runs in arrears.

Ross Taylor, who put on 76 for the third wicket with Williamson and made 290 in his previous Test in Perth, was on 66 and BJ Watling was yet to score.

Smith’s freak catch was a key moment, as the Kiwis slumped to 97 for five by losing three wickets for just 20 runs and Tim Southee conceded the last hour cost the Kiwis dearly.

Starc said the Smith catch to remove Williamson was a pivotal moment in the day’s play. Starc (4-31) did the damage with four wickets, including those of Henry Nicholls (7) and night watchman Neil Wagner (0) in successive balls.

However, Australia had also lost opening bowler Josh Hazlewood (1-0) with a left hamstring injury. Hazlewood bowled opener Jeet Raval for a duck in his first over, but managed just two balls in his second before pulling up short during his run up.

He left the field immediately with a devastated demeanour, becoming the second fast bowler to succumb to injury in two days of scorching Perth heat.

Kiwi debutant Lockie Ferguson was forced out the game on the first day by a calf injury. The wicket of Raval followed the dismissal of Tom Latham in the very first over, easily caught and bowled by Starc in his follow through.

Having claimed the two openers in quick time in favourable bowling conditions Australia looked in total control, but Williamson and Taylor rode their luck early and then settled in as the home side was forced to turn to former wicketkeeper Matthew Wade to send down a couple of overs of erratic medium pace.

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