SYDNEY (Reuters) – Marnus Labuschagne scored a first double-century to bring Australia to 454 before the New Zealanders withstood 63 points without defeat on Saturday's second day of the third test on Saturday.
Australia's Marnus Labuschagne after being caught by England's Jonny Bairstow. Reuters / Andrew Boyers
Tom Latham, who served as captain for sick Kane Williamson, still had 26 goals at the end of the game with Tom Blundell, who was unbeaten at 34, but tourists know they still have a mountain to climb to get a 3 : 0 series to avoid sweeping.
Labuschagne is a big part of the reason, and a hot, sunny day at the Sydney Cricket Ground belonged to the overwhelming 25-year-old, who had a golden summer in Australia's home season.
He had a nervous 20-minute break from the double-century mark, but his twenty-four minutes got him across the finish line and brought him a standing ovation from the crowd.
Eventually he went to 215, was caught and bowled by spinner Todd Astle, and left the field after scoring 837 runs averaging 119.57 in five home tests this season.
Labuschagne was faced with 363 deliveries in a great inning that seemed to have made Australia well on its way to another win to add to the impressive wins in Perth and Melbourne.
"It was a good day for me personally, but above all a good day for Australia," said Labuschagne.
"They fought back as expected, but we will make the effort and hopefully win."
New Zealand has done a short job after the Labuschagne retirement to fire the hosts and bring tea before their initiators again face Australia's shapely pacemakers.
The Black Caps have only scored more than 200 runs in the last four innings of the series, but Latham and Blundell canceled the attack and headed for stumps.
"It was nice to show up today and show this fight," said Astle. "It will be a difficult question, but that's what this group is about. We will continue."
There were concerns that the rising temperatures forecast for Saturday could worsen the bushfire emergency in Australia and that the sharp smoke blanket that Sydney has covered several times in the past few weeks could return. [nL4N2982KH]
Labuschagne, however, resumed his innings at 130 under a blue sky and soon passed 150 in his last seven innings for the third time.
With Australia dominating all five home games this year, their fans had a precious little drama, so it might be understandable that they made the most of Labuschagne's advances in the 190s.
"Being in the 190s is a little different from being in the 90s. You just try to avoid doing something stupid," added Labuschagne.
The crowd waited for four overs while Labuschagne held on 199, and Captain Tim Paine got a hearty spell when he pulled a single out of one of the last ball to score the next goal.
New Zealand pulled into the field to deny him the single and it worked for seven deliveries until he got a thick edge on a Colin de Grandhomme delivery that sent the ball to the border.