Head century leads Australia to 467 all out on day 2

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Travis Head signaled his coming of age as a test batsman by scoring a crucial century in Australia’s first innings of 467 on day two of the second test against New Zealand at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Head (114) added 68 for the fifth wicket with Steve Smith (85), before sharing a vital 150-run partnership with skipper Tim Paine on Friday.

Hard-working paceman Neil Wagner (4-83 off 38 overs), who led New Zealand’s bumper barrage, trapped Paine lbw in the second over after tea for 79 at 434-6.

Tailender Mitchell Starc fell for one in the following over, with a nervous Head on 99, still seeking the second test century of his 16-match career.

The stylish left-hander reached the milestone two balls later with a boundary to backward point. Head took off his helmet and raised both arms in triumph, likely putting to an end any speculation over his place in the side.

Head, who had many uncomfortable moments against New Zealand’s short-pitched bowling tactics, was caught at cover off Wagner’s bowling for 114 off 234 deliveries, including 12 boundaries, as Australia chased quick runs.

Australia was bowled out for 467 with 22 overs remaining in Friday’s second day of play.

Earlier on Friday, Wagner bounced out Smith to deny the star batsman a fifth consecutive test century at the Melbourne Cricket Ground as Australia battled its way to 336-5 at lunch.

World No.2-ranked batsman Smith fended a bouncer from Wagner to gully where he was caught for 85, having taken more than an hour on Friday to add only eight runs to his overnight score.

Smith’s patient, 242-ball innings included eight fours and one six. The right-hander had scored a century in the Melbourne test in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, before missing the 2018 match because of suspension.

Head was joined by Paine who showed a willingness to attack against the short ball.

Australia had resumed on Friday’s second day of play on 257-4. New Zealand captain Kane Williamson had won the toss on Thursday and elected to bowl first in a bid to take advantage of the green-topped pitch and overcast conditions.

However, after the loss of Joe Burns (0) who was bowled by Trent Boult in the opening over, Australia consolidated as David Warner (41), Marnus Labuschagne (63) and Matthew Wade (38) battled hard on what Smith labelled a “difficult wicket”.

Australia leads the three-match series one-nil after claiming a 296-run win over New Zealand in the first test in Perth. The final test will be played in Sydney starting on Jan. 3.


More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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