Cameron Green.
Australia's Cameron Green hit three boundaries in the day's final over to notch his second Test ton. Image by AP PHOTO
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Green ton rallies Australia in cagey first Test with NZ

Ben McKay February 29, 2024

Cameron Green’s defiant century has spared Australia’s blushes in the first Test against New Zealand, holding the line and pushing Australia through to stumps at 9-279 on the opening day.

Matt Henry led an all-pace assault on a green Basin Reserve wicket in Wellington on Thursday, taking 4-43 and troubling Australian batsmen across all three sessions.

Only Green was able to raise the bat for even a half-century, finishing with an unbeaten 103 to deny the Kiwi attack a chance to dismiss the tourists on day one.

Starting the final over on 91, Green blasted Will O’Rourke for two boundaries in his first three balls to get to 99.

After nearly chopping the fourth delivery onto his stumps, Green cut truly for four off the day’s second-last delivery to celebrate his second Test ton.

The 24-year-old allrounder’s innings was his best for a year, and one of the most consequential of his career.

“Probably equally as relieving as my first (century),” he said.

“Mainly proud of pulling the team to a reasonable total.”

From 4-89, Green worked with Mitch Marsh (40) and others to steady the ship, ensuring a balanced first day of the much-anticipated series.

Mitch Marsh.
 Mitch Marsh plays a back-foot off-side shot off Scott Kuggeleijn in Wellington. Image by AP PHOTO 

Australia might be the happier of the two teams at stumps, given they were sent in by Black Caps skipper Tim Southee, and lost 4-28 either side of lunch.On Australia’s first Test tour of New Zealand in eight years, the Black Caps revelled early in conditions they know all too well – a fresh southerly breeze in the Kiwi capital, overcast conditions and a green-tinged pitch.

Henry was the chief tormentor, fizzing the ball at a good length and forcing Australia’s batters to make tough decisions with every delivery.

Steve Smith was his first victim, caught behind defending a ball that deviated off the pitch as Australia limped to 1-62 at lunch.

Marnus Labuschagne (one) followed shortly after the break having barely troubled the scorers, edging Scott Kuggeleijn to first slip with a similar delivery.

It was Labuschagne’s fifth failure in a row after four scores of 10 runs or fewer in the home series against West Indies.

After dogged early resistance, Usman Khawaja (33 off 118 deliveries) fell from a Henry change-up, the 32-year-old ripping an inswinger that crashed through the opener’s defence and bowled him.

Usman Khawaja is bowled by New Zealand's Matt Henry for 33.
 Opener Usman Khawaja is clean bowled by New Zealand’s Matt Henry for 33. Image by AP PHOTO 

When Travis Head (one) followed – caught behind off O’Rourke – the very next over, Australia were rocking, having lost 4-28 and with two new batters at the crease.

Marsh and Green responded by putting together Australia’s best partnership, upping the run-rate as well courtesy of Marsh, who struck a run-a-ball 40 featuring half a dozen boundaries and a six.

Green credited Marsh with arresting New Zealand’s momentum.

“It was exactly what we needed at the time to put some pressure back on them … it put them on the back foot,” he said.

Alex Carey and the Australian bowlers fell steadily thought the last session – with Cummins (16) out lbw to part-time spinner Rachin Ravindra – but Green continued on, pushing the Australian total past 250.

In just their second Tests, O’Rourke (2-59) and Kuggeleijn (2-56), who was preferred to spinner Mitchell Santner, played able support hands to veteran pacemen Henry and Southee.

New Zealand might rue missing taking a fifth wicket when they were well on top after lunch.

“That’s international cricket … it all comes down to moments of pressure and absorbing them and they absorb that pressure,” Henry said.

“To have them nine down, it’s a great position but we’ve still got a job to do in the morning.”

New Zealand, who have won their past five Tests at the Basin Reserve, are hunting a first home Test win over Australia in 31 years.