The visitors’ abject total was made to look a little rosier by the opening overs of Australia’s reply, as Hughes pushed at Martin’s angle and offered Guptill a catch for the third time in as many innings. Usman Khawaja also eluded two appeals for caught behind, while the debutant Trent Boult worried David Warner a little with his left-arm swing before the showers arrived at 1 for 12.
Club team-mates Peter Siddle and James Pattinson had shared eight wickets between them for Australia, Siddle plucking two of the first three wickets as he pitched the ball up with intent. Pattinson’s five maintained the striking impact he had made on debut in Brisbane, and he will be on a hat-trick in the second innings. Mitchell Starc, though still changeable in his line and length, nipped out the other two.
Of New Zealand’s batsmen, Dean Brownlie again showed a steady hand in his punchy 56, while Brendon McCullum fought a losing battle in the most treacherous of the conditions. Theirs were rare hold-ups for Australia’s bowlers.
Having struggled against seam, swing and spin in Brisbane, the visitors were in dreadful strife on a pitch that offered plenty of encouragement to the bowlers, having already suffered the loss of Daniel Vettori to a hamstring strain during the warm-ups. Their captain Ross Taylor summed up the team’s frustration with an angry reaction to his lbw dismissal.
Michael Clarke has won few tosses as captain, but as in Galle against Sri Lanka, had the benefit of winning one that seemed critical to the final outcome. On a pitch as green and dark in appearance as many experienced observers could remember, Clarke gave his pacemen first use of the ball, and they quickly set about tearing apart New Zealand’s fragile top order.
Utilising an intelligent full length, Siddle struck in the day’s second over: he seamed one away to clip the outside edge, aided by Martin Guptill’s bat being angled towards wide mid on.
Jesse Ryder was promoted to No. 3 but immediately found himself battling against deliveries moving in both directions. Pattinson swung one down the line of middle and leg stumps to pin him in front, but the third umpire Aleem Dar appeared to ignore circumstantial evidence of a faint inside edge in sending Ryder on his way after Clarke had referred the on-field umpire Nigel Llong’s initial negative verdict.
Taylor was also lbw, offering no stroke to a Siddle delivery that seamed back sharply towards off stump. He immediately referred the verdict as the ball had seemingly struck him above his back pad, but replays showed a bent right leg and the ball’s predicted path clattering into the off bail. Angry to be out, Taylor expressed his displeasure, perhaps encouraged to do so by a few choice words from the Australian celebratory huddle.
A patch of milder cricket followed, McCullum and Kane Williamson fighting as best they could as the hosts momentarily lost their best direction. Starc again swung the ball but could not find the consistency of line he needed, and was a fortunate beneficiary when Williamson swished at a ball curling down the legside only to nick it to Brad Haddin.
Pattinson had returned to the attack to replace Siddle, and found the ball of the morning to account for McCullum after 98 minutes of desperate resistance. McCullum pushed forward at an away swinger that was devious in its change of direction and precise in its length, and snicked behind, cursing once he had done so.
The next man, Reece Young, was beaten twice in three balls, and to his fourth withdrew his bat too late to prevent it from cuffing the ball onto the stumps. At this point there seemed a chance of New Zealand being bowled out by lunch, but Brownlie and Doug Bracewell survived.
On resumption, Brownlie and Bracewell continued to fight under sunnier skies, before Siddle found enough seam to prompt another outside edge, this time held at slip by Clarke. Tim Southee might have been out first ball, Siddle taking the shoulder of his bat then screeching in exasperation as the ball flew at catchable height between Clarke and Ricky Ponting.
Southee managed a couple of firm blows, and stayed with Brownlie until he had passed 50 for the second time in the series. Starc returned to the attack to have Southee dragging on, before Brownlie fell in a similar manner to Pattinson and Chris Martin was bowled first ball.
The visitors had suffered a serious blow even before play began, losing Vettori to left hamstring tightness that he aggravated during the morning warm-up. His place in the XI was taken by the debutant Boult, meaning New Zealand have an all seam bowling attack.