Ex-rivals form dangerous duo as Aussies accused of post-Warner ‘survival mentality’ — Talking Pts


A brilliant century from Cameron Green has helped Australia to a decent position on the opening day of the first Test against New Zealand in Wellington, with the tourists reaching 9-278 at stumps in testing batting conditions.

The 24-year-old finished with a phenomenal flourish, striking three fours in the final over of the day to notch the second century of his career while also vindicating the decision by selectors to back him for the No. 4 position.

Green and fellow Western Australian Mitch Marsh wrestled the momentum back for Australia after a mini-collapse at the top of the order, with New Zealand paceman Matt Henry in particular superb when finishing with four wickets.

Australia was particularly watchful in the first session and also conservative after lunch as New Zealand began to get on top, but with Green seizing the day in the last session, the visitors were able to rattle off 132 runs to arguably square the day after being sent into bat.

Play will resume at 9am AEDT with Green unbeaten on 103 and tailender Josh Hazlewood yet to face a ball.

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Cameron Green of Australia. Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images
Cameron Green of Australia. Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images


Over the past two years, Western Australians Mitch Marsh and Cameron Green were considered to be vying for the same spot given their all-round expertise.

The younger West Aussie was the incumbent throughout the first half of 2023 until a minor injury concern opened the door for Marsh to return to the team during the Ashes.

It is now history that Marsh did so in stunning style, with the powerful Perth resident named the Allan Border Medallist after a stunning 2023 in all formats of the game.

Last year, both players were asked whether they could envisage themselves playing in the same Test team together.

Marsh was less certain, noting it was unlikely to occur unless he was promoted to opener after Warner’s retirement. And he made it clear to selectors that he had no desire to fill that spot in Test cricket.

But Green believed they could flourish if given a chance in the same side.

Stellar catch removes Smith before lunch | 00:45

“I definitely see ourselves playing in the same team,” Green said last year.

“One of us could take the reins more as a bowler, or one could take it more as a batter. I think we have similar skill sets, but do it differently.”

The retirement of David Warner prompted a reshuffle in the batting order which enabled Green to return to the Australian side and the duo demonstrated on Thursday that they could be a lethal combination when firing.

Marsh and Green shared a crucial 67-run partnership at a time when Australia was under immense pressure having lost 4-28 following the loss of opener Steve Smith for 31.

“I was finding it quite tough out there (but) I kind of know how Mitch is going to play,” Green said.

“We have obviously played quite of lot of times with each other in Western Australia and I knew he was going to play his shots and that is probably what you needed to do out there.”

Australia’s Mitchell Marsh with teammate Cameron Green. Photo by Marty MELVILLE / AFPSource: AFP

The decision by Australian selectors to rest Green from the recent T20 series against New Zealand to enable him to play Sheffield Shield for his state has reaped rewards.

The 24-year-old recorded an unbeaten century against Tasmania in Hobart before flying across the Tasman Sea to join his teammates and brought that form with him on Thursday.

He proved the backbone of the middle order when scoring an unbeaten 103 from 155 balls on a challenging day for batting with an assertive but measured performance.

Marsh, meanwhile, batted with his usual aggression to nudge the Kiwis off the front foot after they had dismissed Smith, Marnus Labuschagne (1), Usman Khawaja (33) and Travis Head (1) in an hour either side of lunch.

Cam Green’s HEROIC 100 in New Zealand! | 05:34

Although he eventually fell for 40 to a poor shot against Tim Southee, his ability to take the attack to the New Zealanders during a 39-run innings was important, former Australian wicketkeeper Brad Haddin said in commentary.

“New Zealand owned that first hour of play after lunch but Mitch Marsh just changed the momentum,” Haddin said.

Brendon Julian praised the deeds of Green, stating he delivered in difficult conditions and under significant pressure.

“The No. 4 for any country, but particularly Australia, is a big focal point. When you don’t score a few runs there … people start to ask questions,” he said on Fox Cricket.

“There has been plenty of talk about him (and whether) he can bat that No. 4 position but his runs today in these conditions (will) give him great confidence that he can go out and play like a No.4.

“He has got these runs in difficult conditions, really difficult conditions, and those are innings that give you confidence in the future.”


What’s going on with Marnus Labuschagne?

The Australian No. 3’s horror run with the bat continued in Wellington on Thursday, dismissed for 1 after surviving 27 deliveries at the crease.

Labuschagne was toppled by Black Caps seamer Scott Kuggeleijn early in the afternoon session, caught at first slip by Daryl Mitchell after edging a length delivery that nipped away from the right-hander. The Queenslander was caught on the crease, neither coming forward nor back, which ultimately proved his undoing.

“He looked very tentative,” former Australian all-rounder Brendon Julian said in commentary.

”Just sort of sat in the crease.”

Labuschagne, who has now been caught in the slips cordon in three consecutive Test innings, registered scores of 10, 1*, 3 and 5 during last month’s Frank-Worrell Trophy campaign against the West Indies. The 29-year-old’s Test batting average has slipped from 60.82 in December last summer to 50.20.

In his most recent 35 Test innings, Labuschagne has averaged 32.50 with one century — not terrible numbers by any means, but it’s a considerable dip in form for a cricketer who recently ranked as the world’s No. 1 Test batter.

Marnus out for 1 in ROUGH 27-ball knock | 03:06

Former New South Wales wicketkeeper Daniel Smith tweeted: “Marnus lacked presence at the crease today.

“I look back to when he subbed in for Smith back in the Ashes when he was at his best, he was committing forward looking to move into the ball.

“Recently he looks more in survival mode.”

Labuschagne’s spot in the Test side is by no means at risk, but his recent trend of nicking off is becoming a cause for concern.

“I don’t think it was just that (West Indies) series, I think there’s been probably a year of me getting out nicking off,” Labuschagne told News Corp this week.

“It’s definitely one of the dismissals that I’m trying to negate out of my game. Happy to get LBW, but you want to minimise the way teams can get you out.”


Usman Khawaja’s celebrated return to the Australian team over the past two seasons at the top of the order has been one of the highlights of a golden period for the national side.

The opening batsman is well aware that a Test can sometimes feel like a lifetime, let alone a couple of seasons at the top level, but he is making the most of another chance for Australia.

The popular opener became just the second Australian to score more than 2500 runs at Test level after turning 35 with a patient 33 from 118 balls in Wellington.

The 37-year-old, who was absent from the national team between 2019 and 2022, has averaged almost 57 in the 28 Tests he has played since returning to the Australian team.

Standing in his sights is former Australian captain Steve Waugh, who scored 2554 at 53.20 in 40 Tests after turning 35.

Among the 13 Australians with more than 1000 Test runs after turning 35, Khawaja boasts the third best average, behind Don Bradman (1903 runs at 105.72) and Adam Voges (1485 at 61.87).

Former Australian great Mike Hussey, who did not start his Test career until he was 31 and retired at 38, said in a recent chat with foxsports.com.au he loved Khawaja’s approach.

“I love listening to Usman Khawaja talk about batting because he says he can play a long innings, he can play an aggressive innings, but he just plays the situation,” he said.

Khawaja’s approach on Thursday was more pedestrian than aggressive as he and fellow opener Steve Smith attempted to lead Australia through the challenging conditions.

There were a couple of flourishes, including a fine pull for six from the bowling of New Zealand captain Tim Southee.

But he was largely watchful for much of a 118-ball innings in which he made 33 runs.

Khawaja bamboozled by absolute PEACH | 00:45

After the recent retirement from Test and ODI cricket of his opening partner and good mate David Warner, Khawaja was asked on the eve of the series how long he planned to continue on for and declared he did not want to put a time on his departure.

“I understand that I’m 37, so people always ask me about the finishing line,” he said.

“But we’ve got a few guys like Nathan Lyon, who is 36, and (Steve) Smith is 35. We’ve got a few experienced players in the team.

“But for me it’s just about contributing for the team and I’ve said before (it is important to make) sure I’m enjoying it, make sure I’m mentally ready to play at Test level.

“I don’t want to look too far ahead because two years is a long time in sport, one year is a long time in sport, three years is a long time in sport. And there is a decent gap coming up (ahead of the summer against India in December).

“So, for me, I guess there is no finishing line. Honestly, someone says, ‘Can you see yourself playing next summer?’. I’m probably like, ‘Yeah’, but I’m not going to let my mind drift off there.”


David Warner’s absence was more apparent than ever during the first hour of play at the Basin Reserve on Thursday, with Australia registering just 27 runs from the opening 15 overs in the New Zealand capital.

In overcast conditions, Australian openers Steve Smith and Usman Khawaja weathered the storm on a seaming green deck, surviving through to the drinks break unscathed. Half of the runs in the first hour came from outside edges through gully as New Zealand’s seamers relentlessly probed away at a good length.

Khawaja and Smith are, for lack of a better word, traditional Test openers, prodding and fending and leaving the Kookaburra until the shine starts to fade.

Meanwhile, Warner built his career on counterattacking against the new ball, punching through the covers whenever bowlers even marginally missed their lengths. It was high-risk, high-reward cricket that occasionally backfired, but often put Australia in a commanding position at lunch.

Australia’s Steven Smith with teammate Usman Khawaja. Photo by Marty MELVILLE / AFPSource: AFP

Australia’s greatest opening partnerships of the modern era typically had an aggressor accompanied by a conservative teammate — Warner and Chris Rogers, Shane Watson and Simon Katich, Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer.

“Warner put bowlers on the back foot before they even bowled the ball,” former New Zealand batter Craig McMillan said in commentary.

“It is a different sort of line-up with no Warner at the top.

“I was surprised at how defensive Australia were … it was just a survival mentality.”

Later in the day, Australian all-rounder Cameron Green faced 27 consecutive deliveries without scoring a run.

“You look at Australia and the aggression they usually bring,” Sky Sports commentator Scotty Stevenson continued.

“This has not been a runaway start by Australian standards, that’s for sure.”


New Zealand’s bowlers didn’t get their lengths right during the first hour of play on Thursday, which drew the ire of commentators at the Basin Reserve.

Australian openers Steve Smith and Usman Khawaja combined for a 61-run partnership after Black Caps captain Tim Southee won the toss and chose to bowl first. The duo survived 24 overs in the middle, with Khawaja repeatedly trusting the pitch’s bounce and leaving on a good length.

The Kiwi seamers threw the head back in frustration as deliveries sailed past off stump, but former Australian wicketkeeper Brad Haddin argued the New Zealanders needed to adjust their lengths.

“Bring the outside edge, the stumps and LBW into play,” Haddin said in commentary.

“They didn’t hit the stumps enough, when you bowl that fuller length, it brings your slips into play.

“New Zealand just need to go that fraction fuller, as Henry did.”

Former Australian all-rounder Brendon Julian agreed: “They‘ve bowled a bit short, Tim Southee and Matt Henry.

“They’ve got to pitch up.”

Matt Henry of New Zealand celebrates after taking the wicket of Nathan Lyon. Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

As shown by the local broadcaster, only seven of New Zealand’s first 129 deliveries of the day would have hit the stumps, according to the Hawkeye technology.

“They’ve been a touch short, with not enough balls hitting the stumps,” Craig McMillan continued.

“New Zealand haven’t found the right lengths yet on this surface.

“You have to bring all dismissals into play, including bowled and LBW.

“Smith and Khawaja are quite comfortable on that back foot.

“The bowling hasn’t been as threatening as maybe you would have hoped in this first session.”

New Zealand’s quicks pitched the Kookaburra slightly fuller after the first 90 minutes of the morning session and reaped the rewards. Smith, Khawaja and Marnus Labuschagne all fell to deliveries that were a touch fuller than a good length, with the ball swinging enough to find the edge or evade their defences.


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