x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Katich puts Australia in the driving seat

An unbeaten century from Simon Katich helped put his side on top of New Zealand at stumps on day three at the Gabba.

BRISBANE // An unbeaten century from Simon Katich helped put his side on top of New Zealand at stumps on day three at the Gabba. Katich - who became only the 10th Australian opener to carry his bat though a Test innings - scored a classy 131 that boosted Australia to a total of 268, setting the Black Caps a difficult 327 target for victory.

Australia then took two wickets before tea and a further four in the final session, as the visitors were reduced to 143-6 at the end of play, still needing 184 more runs to claim an unlikely victory. After the Black Caps collapsed to 49-4, Ross Taylor (67 not out) and Daniel Flynn (29) offered stubborn resistance in a fighting 84-run partnership, ensuring New Zealand would live to fight another day.

But their hard work was undone when Flynn, who initially showed more of the same determination that was on display in his unbeaten first innings score of 39, played on to Mitchell Johnson in the fourth last over of play. There was to be even more drama though, with a wicket falling to the last ball, when Grant Elliott (0) shouldered arms to a swinging ball from Stuart Clark that knocked back his off stump.

Brett Lee had started the slide, striking in the first over to claim his 300th Test wicket, removing Jamie How for a duck. How attempted to drive, but instead edged a swinging delivery to Ricky Ponting at second slip. Lee joined the exclusive company of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Dennis Lillee as the only Australians to clock up 300 wickets. Clark then came to the party in the 10th over when he completed a juggling caught and bowled chance after Aaron Redmond (10) hammered a fuller ball straight at him.

Jesse Ryder (24) again displayed some impressive shots but once again went early, trapped lbw by Johnson in the second over after the tea break. Ten minutes later, the dangerman Brendon McCullum (three) was trapped leg before by Clark. Taylor looked at ease compiling his fourth Test half-century, stroking nine boundaries, but his efforts were spoiled by the two late wickets. Earlier, Katich started the day on 67 and finished unbeaten to become the first Australian opener to carry his bat through an innings since Mark Taylor's 169 not out at Adelaide Oval in 1998.

This was Katich's sixth Test century and will be remembered as a match-winner, with Johnson the only other batsman to make it past 20 for Australia in a below par second innings. * PA Sport