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Cricket news - Labuschagne, Smith put Australia in ascendancy

The third wicket pair put on an undefeated 85-run stand to help the hosts to 160 for 2 at Tea

The third wicket pair put on an undefeated 85-run stand to help the hosts to 160 for 2 at Tea

Marnus Labuschagne (68*) and Steve Smith waded through a disciplined effort from New Zealand's bowlers to put Australia in the ascendancy in the Perth Test. The home side was 160 for 2 at the break.

When Smith and Labuschagne walked out to bat after the first session, the crowd would have expected Smith to put on another impressive exhibition of batsmanship. However, it was Labuschagne who looked in good touch, cracking the odd drive and leg glance. The duo also had to paddle through some testing spells from Neil Wagner, Tim Southee and Colin de Grandhomme. Lockie Ferguson also bowled a couple of fine short deliveries.

It was in the 45th over when Labuschagne tried to break free with a neatly played punch off Southee. He also reached another Test fifty by upper-cutting Ferguson over the slip cordon. On the other hand, Smith looked mostly out of sync in the session. He also offered a chance when he flashed at a short and wide one from Ferguson to Tom Latham in the slips, but the southpaw dropped a relatively simple chance. Latham, fielding at second slip, didn't seem to pick the ball at all. Smith then found some rhythm with a nicely played flick shot off Mitchell Santner, as the pair guided the side to the break.

Earlier, de Grandhomme and Wagner had picked up a wicket each to ensure New Zealand shared honours in the first session. Australia, who elected to bat - based on the fact that cracks could open up with the heat wave around - started on a good note. Ferguson, the tearaway, making his Test debut, bowled sharp nip-backers to cause problems to Joe Burns. He also got one to straighten to produce the edge of Burns's bat, only for it to not carry to the slip cordon.

However, Ferguson perhaps got carried away with the extra bounce and also bowled short. In an attempt to compensate for the short deliveries, he then ended up bowling half volleys, with Warner taking advantage of it and crashing a few drives. With the opening pace duo of Southee and Ferguson not making the breakthrough, de Grandhomme was introduced into the attack. The all-rounder made an impression with his unremitting control and trapped Burns in front.

Labuschagne, who joined Warner in the middle, looked in fine touch, and showcased his class with a sublime drive off Santner through extra cover. With a few minutes to go for the break, the hosts - one down - looked set to claim session. However, against the run of play, Warner chipped a low full toss from Wagner back to the bowler, with the left-arm pacer pouching a sensational one-handed catch.

Brief scores: Australia 160/2 (Marnus Labuschagne 68*, David Warner 43; Colin de Grandhomme 1-18) v New Zealand.

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