Blundell leads New Zealand's resistance with unbeaten 73

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Tom Blundell scored an unbeaten 73 as New Zealand provided some stubborn resistance to Australia’s pace attack on Sunday, reaching 131-4 after being set an improbable target of 488 to win the second test.

Australia resumed on day four at 137-4 and declared its second innings closed at 168-5, an overall lead of 487.

New Zealand lost three wickets for three runs as paceman James Pattinson struck three times in two overs, leaving Kane Williamson’s lineup in a desperate position at 38-3 at lunch. But only one wicket fell in the middle session for the addition of 93 runs as New Zealand rallied.

Opener Blundell and Henry Nicholls (33) steadied New Zealand’s second innings with a 54-run partnership for the fourth wicket. Nicholls hit a straight six over spinner Nathan Lyon’s head but was out, stumped by Tim Paine, next delivery to make the total 89-4.

Blundell, in his third test, has struck eights fours off 126 balls and remained unbeaten at tea, BJ Watling was unbeaten on six at the interval, with four sessions remaining in the match.

Coming on as first-change bowler, Pattinson had Tom Latham (8) caught behind at 32-1. In his next over, Pattinson trapped Williamson lbw for a duck, before Ross Taylor (2) chopped a short ball onto his stumps four deliveries later.

Williamson, ranked among the top three batsmen in test cricket, has scored 34, 14, nine and a duck in the series. His captaincy has also been questioned by ex-Kiwi skipper Brendon McCullum, who described some of his tactics as “staggering”.

Australia batted during the morning session with Matthew Wade (30 not out) and Travis Head (28) adding 31 to the overnight total before Neil Wagner (4-83 and 3-50) bowled Head in the 10th over of the day’s play, triggering the declaration.

New Zealand had a major setback Saturday when pace spearhead Trent Boult was ruled out of the third and final test in Sydney starting on Jan. 3. Boult fractured his right hand, his non-bowling hand, while batting in New Zealand’s first innings.

Australia leads the three-match series against after winning the first test by 296 runs in Perth.

Also Sunday, pace bowler Peter Siddle announced his international retirement on Sunday. The 35-year-old took 221 test wickets in 67 tests for Australia, including seven wickets in three Ashes tests in 2019.

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

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