Sydney: Marnus Labuschagne scored his fourth century in six matches this summer as Australia continued its dominance over New Zealand this series by reaching 283-3 after the first day of the third cricket Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Saturday.
Labuschagne shared a 156-run partnership with Steve Smith, who made 63, to give first day honors to Australia after captain Tim Paine won the toss and batted on a dry SCG pitch. At stumps, Labuschagne was 130 not out with Matthew Wade on 22.
It was a long day in the field for illness-hit New Zealand, which was as forced to make five changes, including that of captain Kane Williamson due to a virus. But it was stalwarts Neil Wagner and Colin de Grandhomme again most-troubled the Australian batsmen with Wagner's short-pitched aggressive line complemented de Grandhomme's accurate swing bowling.
Smith took 39 balls to get off the mark as his series nemesis Wagner — who hit the star batsman on the body with his first ball — employed his short-pitched tactic to good effect to limit the Smith’s scoring options and greatly slowed Australia’s run-rate in the hour after lunch.
Labuschagne, however, was untroubled and kept the score ticking over for the hosts and raised his 50 off 97 balls, with four boundaries.
Labuschage continued to score serenely and deservedly reached his fourth century in seven innings this summer with a clip to fine leg for a boundary off de Grandhomme in the 72nd over.
The 25-year-old celebrated his first hundred at the SCG by raising both arms to the crowd before embracing batting partner Smith, who had reached his half-century two overs prior. His stylish century came off 163 balls with eight boundaries and one six.
The 156-run partnership was eventually broken by de Grandhomme (2-63) who teased Smith into driving a ball outside stump and found the edge which carried to Taylor at slip.
Opener Joe Burns (18) was the only wicket to fall in the first session when he edged through to Ross Taylor in the slips off de Grandhomme.
Wagner (1-48) struck with the third ball after lunch by tempting David Warner into a pull stroke where he was caught by de Grandhomme taking the sharp chance to his right at leg gully. Warner made 45 runs, his third score in the 40s this series.
After losing Trent Boult to a hand injury sustained in last week's second Test, a virus swept through the tourist's squad leading to five changes here in Sydney.
Glenn Phillips, who only flew in from Auckland on Thursday as injury cover for Williamson, made his Test debut. Tom Latham was named captain, and Mitchell Santner, Henry Nicholls and Tim Southee were also out.
Seamer Matt Henry, spinners Todd Astle and Will Somerville and batsman Jeet Raval were the other inclusions for the tourists.
Australia was unchanged from the one that clinched the series 2-0 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground last weekend.
Players from both teams wore black armbands in memory of those killed in current wildfires in southern New South Wales and Victoria states. Conditions were expected to worsen on Saturday and smoke from the fires could affect play on the second day of the Test.
Before the match began, a minute of applause was held to thank the thousands of emergency personnel, many of them volunteers, who are fighting the fires.
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