New Zealand took the crucial wicket of David Warner just before lunch as Australia reached 67 for two at the break on the opening day of the second Test on Thursday.
In the Black Caps” first Boxing Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground since 1987, skipper Kane Williamson won the toss and opted to bowl on a cloudy morning, and it looked to be a good decision with Joe Burns out first ball.
Warner and the in-form Marnus Labuschagne dug in to wrestle back control before a swinging Neil Wagner delivery saw the dangerous Warner caught at slip by Tim Southee for 41.
A lunch, Labuschagne, who has made three centuries this summer, was unbeaten on 23 with Steve Smith not out one.
The visitors need to win to square the three-match series after crashing in the opening day-night clash in Perth by 296 runs.
The MCG wicket has been docile for the past two Boxing Day Tests, but proved more lively Thursday and Trent Boult, back after missing two Tests with a rib injury, delivered a sizzling opening over.
After three testing balls to Warner, his fourth clattered into Burns” middle stump, with the opener out for a golden duck to huge roars from the large New Zealand contingent in the crowd.
Boult was sorely missed by the Black Caps in Perth and along with Tim Southee found swing and zip with the ball.
Warner and Labuschagne set about patiently building runs, snatching quick singles and the odd boundary before Warner attempted a drive off Wagner and edged to Southee who took a brilliant one-handed catch.
Along with Boult”s return, New Zealand brought in Tom Blundell for only his third Test. Usually a back-up wicketkeeper and middle-order batsmen, he was called up as an opener in place of Jeet Ravel.
Australia was considering playing five specialist bowlers, but after a late pitch inspection opted to stick with four, saving Travis Head from the axe.