Steve Smith scores unbeaten 77 to thrill record crowd at MCG

Steve Smith scores unbeaten 77 to thrill record crowd at MCG

The left-arm pacer missed the two-home Test series against England as well as the first Test against Australia in Perth as he recovered from a rib injury.

Already the leading Test run-scorer for 2019, Labuschagne is yet to be dismissed for less than 50 this summer and has passed the milestone in nine of his past 12 innings.

Whether this was enough movement to ensure a result remained up in the air by the close of day one, as the Australian top order fought their way into a decent position through the efforts of Smith, Marnus Labuschagne, David Warner and Matthew Wade remained to be seen.

Smith said it was tough to score against New Zealand's leg-side field but that Australia was happy to take the honors on day one. I think it's a real big issue and the reason why they can't win this test.

The signs are ominous for New Zealand with superstar Smith scoring centuries in his past four Tests in Melbourne, and a fifth looking likely.

New Zealand scored a second breakthrough soon before lunch when Warner was caught at second slip off the bowling of Neil Wagner at 61-2.

According to Cricket Australia, they have only fielded five once before in the past decade - at the 2013 Sydney Test against Sri Lanka.

But he survived to make 38 and provide valuable support for Smith before edging de Grandhomme to wicketkeeper BJ Watling.

"I guess there's a sense of romance about being involved in the Boxing Day Test [.] at the same time it's about removing a little bit of that and bringing the focus back to the cricket and making those improvements we need to".

"On the positive, they haven't got too far ahead of the game".

After one over, the estimated 20,000 New Zealand fans were in full voice, with Trent Boult having produced a dream start with a wicket in the first over.

"Obviously we would have liked a few more wickets on our tally", said Boult.

Fighting hard, he rarely pulled the quicks though when he did he hit the ball along the ground to defy fields set to exploit the stroke.

The controversial MCG wicket has received mixed reviews after day one of the Boxing Day Test.

"It wasn't easy. There's patch there that if our bowlers, particularly with our height, can hit that consistently, when we get a chance to bowl, that could be a handful". Overcast and somewhat muggy conditions also aided the New Zealand bowlers in their pursuit of bend through the air, fetching 1.7 degrees of swing in the first 30 overs versus 0.9 degrees of swing for the corresponding period of the India Test. The final match will be played in Sydney starting on January 3.

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