Pat Cummins felt it "all came together" as he claimed his first five-wicket Test haul in 11 months to put Australia in an almost unassailable position against New Zealand in Melbourne.

The home side ended day three of the second Test on 137-4 in their second innings, giving them a lead of 456 over the beleaguered tourists, who had earlier been dismissed for 148.

Cummins was the Black Caps' destroyer-in-chief with 5-28 in a wonderful display of fast bowling at the MCG.

It was his first five-for since January, when he took 6-23 to guide his team to victory against Sri Lanka in Brisbane.

He said: "I was happy with how it came out today. I feel like I've been bowling well, especially the last couple of games.

"Today it felt like it all came together and fortunately, yeah, a few nicks. But to be honest, I'm not really focused too much on the past, it's more what's ahead of me."

On a day of minor milestones, Cummins' removal of Henry Nicholls for a duck was also his first lbw in his last 70 scalps – although that statistic came as a surprise to the 26-year-old.

"Was it? First LB, wow. None in England? I probably should have bowled fuller," he joked.

"I feel like a lot of the wickets are caught behind the wicket. I feel like when the wicket is pretty true it's hard to attack the stumps sometimes. That's always a challenge, trying to get the ball in a position where you can get an LB or a bowled. But yeah, that's surprised me because we always talk about trying to hit the top of the bails and that kind of height, so thanks for that. I'll work on that!"

Cummins' heroics helped Australia establish a 319-run first-innings lead but he endorsed captain Tim Paine's decision not to enforce the follow-on.

"No, [I was] not that keen to bowl tonight," he added. "There's still two days left in the game so we're in no major rush.

"I hear the commentators and everyone talk about it a lot – [but] it's still a massive decision. When you're that far in front in the game, to give the other team a chance to get back into it.

"I think I bowled 17 overs, which isn't huge, but suddenly if we have to have another couple of days out there [in the field] that's basically one innings of bowling, 40 or 50 overs.

"[We will try to get] a good night's sleep, [and go] fresh at them tomorrow. Hopefully we can strike while we're a little bit fresher."

James Pattinson contributed 3-34 on his return to the Test side and Cummins was not surprised by his fellow quick's impact.

"We all know how good Jimmy is," he said.

"When you speak to guys playing Shield cricket or county cricket they speak of him as though he's one of the best bowlers in the world, and we all know that.

"To come out here in front of his home fans, rather than in Shield cricket, was great.

"We absolutely love having him in our team. He's a competitor and bowls 145 kilometres an hour, gets up for the challenge, and nips the ball around. So, he's a handful. [I am] Really happy for him."

New Zealand paceman Trent Boult has been ruled out of the third Test against Australia after fracturing a finger on Saturday.

Boult, who missed the series opener due to a side strain, was hit on the hand by Mitchell Starc during day three of the second Test in Melbourne.

The left-armer bowled during Australia's second innings before the Black Caps announced he had fractured a finger on his right hand.

"Trent Boult will return home to New Zealand following the second Test after suffering a fracture to the second-metacarpal of his right hand while batting on day three," they wrote on Twitter at the close of play.

"He will require around four weeks of rehabilitation. A replacement player will be confirmed in due course."

New Zealand are staring at a 2-0 deficit in the three-Test series, which will conclude in Sydney beginning on January 3.

Australia are 137-4 in their second innings, leading by 456 runs at the MCG.

Australia closed in on victory in the second Test against New Zealand after dominating in Melbourne on Saturday.

Pat Cummins (5-28) starred at the MCG as the Black Caps were bowled out for just 148 in response to Australia's first-innings 467.

The hosts' pace attack have put their team in position for an unassailable 2-0 series lead as Cummins and James Pattinson impressed.

Australia decided not to enforce the follow on, reaching 137-4 – a lead of 456 runs – at stumps on day three.

The Black Caps resumed at 44-2, but superb bowling by Australia early in the day saw them take complete control.

Cummins and Pattinson (3-34) were particularly impressive, while Mitchell Starc (2-30) grabbed a couple of late wickets.

Bowling with superb accuracy throughout the first session, Cummins and Pattinson forced New Zealand's batsmen to play at most deliveries and it brought success under cloudy skies in hot and humid weather.

Ross Taylor (4) fell to Cummins, although Marnus Labuschagne put down a chance at third slip which deflected to Joe Burns at first.

Cummins had Henry Nicholls lbw off the next ball, while a diving Steve Smith dropped Tom Latham on nine off Pattinson.

Latham was able to provide some resistance to Australia's pace attack as BJ Watling (7) and Colin de Grandhomme (11) fell cheaply.

Cummins removed Latham shortly after lunch and the tail followed despite Neil Wagner's unbeaten 18.

Australia opted not to enforce the follow on before David Warner (38) and Burns (35) contributed most before stumps, with Matthew Wade (15) and Travis Head (11) unbeaten.

Smith fell to Wagner (2-38) for the fourth time in the series and to another short ball as the star batsman made seven, but Australia are in command.

Neil Wagner claimed it feels like Australia's batsmen have been a step ahead of New Zealand, but he does not believe the Black Caps need to rethink their approach.

Travis Head (114), Steve Smith (85) and Tim Paine (79) all made big scores as Australia took control of the second Test in Melbourne on day two, amassing 467 from their first innings.

Wagner (4-83) was the pick of New Zealand's bowlers, though he believes the tourists were unfortunate to find Paine and Head in such fine form.

The solution, according to Wagner, is for the bowling attack to attempt to sustain longer spells of pressure, rather than tear up their plans and start afresh heading into the third Test in Sydney.

"Pretty tough day. We put in a lot of hard work yesterday and were hoping for some rewards early doors and there wasn't any," Wagner told a news conference.

"We kept fighting and I think that's one of the personalities of this team, we kept giving everything. The opportunities didn't really always go our way.

"Finally, we created something, thought we might have a bit of a gap and then two guys [Head and Paine] came out and played really well. It's one of those things.

"Full credit to the Australian batsmen. They've almost been a step ahead of us in some ways. Showed a lot of patience, some clear plans and they kept doing that through the whole innings.

"Everybody knows we can bowl a lot of overs. It's one of our strengths as a bowling group, we can back it up. We might not be the quickest on the radar but we're some of the fittest bowlers around. That's all you can ask for.

"I think our plans are very good. We have a quality bowling line up. The amount of edges we've had that just didn't carry. It's a bit of luck you need sometimes.

"I think we created the pressure and it just didn't happen. Sometimes it can be frustrating and you leak a couple of runs. I thought our plans were pretty good. 

"You've got to be ruthless against a quality batting line up. I guess you've got to be better for longer and you need a bit of luck and we didn't really have that."

New Zealand reached stumps at 44-2, with Tom Blundell (15) and captain Kane Williamson (9) losing their wickets.

Travis Head believes his century against New Zealand shows he has matured as a Test batsman and he has hailed Australia captain Tim Paine for his assistance.

Head's 114 helped Australia take control of the second Test against the Black Caps in Melbourne on Friday.

The hosts – leading the three-Test series 1-0 – made 467 in their first innings, with Steve Smith (85) and Paine (79) also contributing big scores.

Middle-order batsman Head, who hit a Test century against Sri Lanka earlier in the year, scored 56 in his first innings in the Perth Test, though only managed five in his second stint at the crease, and was publicly criticised by former Australia captain Ricky Ponting.

However, Head stated he has proved he has added more maturity to his game with his century at the MCG.

"I've been really happy with how I've been starting innings over the last few months, especially this season, so it was about making sure I go on," Head told reporters.

"I was more disappointed getting out in the second innings [in Perth] and looking back to how my week panned out, probably even more frustrated after my second innings about the first innings.

"Over the last couple of years, as I've matured I've been able to get more hundreds. It was pretty lean early days in my career and I think over the last two or three years I've been able to get big scores and go on with that.

"As I was younger, I think I tried to get through those 90s a bit quicker than I should have, and over time you get more mature and you can relax, and I was happy to do it in ones.

"Happy to nudge my way there, it probably took a bit longer than I thought, but New Zealand bowled some really good spells where it was very difficult to score, so pretty proud of the fact I was able to keep them out there."

Australia skipper Paine has at times come under scrutiny for his own batting, but Head insisted the wicketkeeper played a huge part in helping him claim the century.

"I think it helped that Tim came out and struck the ball as well as he did," Head added.

"Definitely took a lot of pressure off me, I don't think I changed the way I went about it, especially to [Neil] Wagner, Tim took him on and played exceptionally well and was very positive, plays the pull and hook shots extremely well.

"That was his game plan and at the other end [a] left-hand, right-hand [combination] definitely helped with the momentum and putting pressure back on their bowlers. Exceptional day for Tim as well and he took a lot of pressure off me in the partnership."

Travis Head scored a century as Australia took control of the second Test against New Zealand in Melbourne on Friday.

Head (114) starred at the MCG as the hosts, already leading the three-Test series 1-0, made 467 in their first innings.

Steve Smith (85) and Tim Paine (79) also made valuable contributions before Australia struck twice prior to stumps to leave the Black Caps in trouble.

Pat Cummins (1-8) and James Pattinson (1-9) took the wickets of Tom Blundell (15) and Kane Williamson (9) respectively as New Zealand finished day two on 44-2, trailing by 423 runs.

The day belonged to Head, who made his second Test century during a fine innings as Australia cemented their control after being put in.

Smith fell in the first session after a well-directed short ball from Neil Wagner (4-83) and fine one-handed catch by Henry Nicholls at gully.

While the wicket of Smith gave New Zealand a boost, Head and Paine quickly put Australia back on top.

They were in control throughout the second session as they put on 150 for the sixth wicket.

Paine fell short of a maiden Test ton, dismissed by Wagner after a successful review for lbw by New Zealand.

Head brought up his century before Australia chased quick runs, largely unsuccessfully as Tim Southee (3-103) cleaned up the tail.

It gave Australia the chance to land a couple of blows before stumps as they removed Blundell and Williamson.

Blundell, who had been aggressive, tried a big drive and edged Cummins through to Paine, while Williamson played an uncharacteristically poor shot.

The New Zealand captain tried to pull Pattinson from outside off but skied his shot and was caught by a running Paine.

Pattinson also thought he had Ross Taylor lbw, but the Kiwi successfully reviewed, with the delivery going over the top, and he will return on Saturday alongside Tom Latham.

Trent Boult conceded it was "annoying" for New Zealand to only claim four wickets on day one at the MCG after they won the toss in the second Test with Australia. 

The Black Caps claimed a spectacular breakthrough in the first over when Boult found early swing to bowl Joe Burns through the gate for a golden duck.

However, Marnus Labuschagne (63) and Steve Smith (77 not out) ensured it was Australia's day, the hosts reaching 257-4 at stumps.

"Obviously we'd like another couple of wickets on that tally ... winning the toss," said Boult in a news conference.

"The overheads and the way the pitch played in the first hour or two, we tried to make the most of it, but yes, [it's] annoying not to have them a couple more down.

"I think it just turned into a good surface. Definitely when the cloud burned off and the bright blue skies came out, it was just good old-fashioned Test cricket really.

"We tried to stay as patient as we could and I suppose on the positive [side] they haven't got too far ahead of the game in terms of the run rate and runs on the board.

"We've got to come back tomorrow [Friday], hopefully get a couple [of wickets] early and see what happens."

Boult, who hailed the level of support for New Zealand in a crowd of 80,473, could at least reflect on a memorable moment due to his dismissal of Burns.

"I was actually quite nervous before the start of the match," he added. "I don't remember the first ball but it was nice to get that one kind of right, and full and straight.

"To see it swing back [and bowl Burns is great], of course, in any Test match, but with 80,000 people watching it was pretty exhilarating.

"Hopefully there's a few more of them left in the next couple of days and we can get in front here."

The prolific Smith earned praise from Boult after demonstrating plenty of patience while facing 192 balls.

"I thought he played really well - he looked to defend as many balls as he could and obviously hung in there and he's built himself a nice little innings," said the New Zealand seamer.

"He's a quality player ... when he leaves well, defends well and plays quite straight, he doesn't give you too much."

Steve Smith said he did not even notice the mixed reception he received from fans at the MCG when he walked out to bat for Australia against New Zealand on Thursday.

Smith's unbeaten 77 and 63 from Marnus Labuschagne helped Australia claim the opening-day honours in the second Test, the hosts reaching 257-4 after losing the toss.

However, a healthy contingent of Black Caps supporters in a crowd of 80,743 - a record for any day of Test cricket between Australia and New Zealand - ensured Smith was greeted by plenty of boos when he walked to the crease, even if they were largely drowned out by cheers.

Asked in a news conference if he had ever been booed walking out to bat in Australia, Smith replied: "Is that what happened? I've no idea."

He added: "I don't really listen when I walk out to bat - cheering, booing, don't know. I've learned to just block it all out, regardless, good or bad."

Smith faced plenty of short-pitched bowling during his innings and was pleased with his decision-making at the crease.

"I was happy with the way that I was able to get through it and score some runs on what I felt wasn't the easiest of wickets to bat on," he explained.

"It takes a lot of patience, just the way they [New Zealand] set the field up. There's not a whole lot you can do and it's risky to play the pull shot, with the field they've got set, particularly off the wrong length. So I thought I played that well.

"I never really felt in all day. They used some short stuff early on and I was able to get through that. I was able to ride a few, I copped a few hits.

"After getting sent in I think you'd take 4-257 at the end of the day. One more good partnership tomorrow [Friday] would be nice and set the game up for us."

Steve Smith produced a gritty performance to hand Australia the edge over New Zealand on an absorbing first day of the Boxing Day Test.

Asked to bat first on a heavily scrutinised wicket, Australia reached 257-4 on day one thanks to Smith and his unbeaten 77 at the MCG in Melbourne, where 80,473 fans were in attendance.

Just like Marnus Labuschagne's 63, it was an innings of patience from Smith, who defied New Zealand's bowlers to close in on another Test century on Thursday as Australia look to wrap up the three-Test series.

Travis Head also made it to stumps unbeaten on 25 against a New Zealand team making their first Boxing Day appearance at the MCG since 1987.

All eyes were on the MCG after a Sheffield Shield match was abandoned earlier this month due to a dangerous surface, but on the evidence of the first morning, curators rectified the issue.

After New Zealand captain Kane Williamson opted to bowl first on a wicket with thick grass coverage and overcast morning conditions, it only took spearhead Trent Boult (1-60) – back from injury – four deliveries to skittle opener Joe Burns for a duck in the first over.

Boult and Tim Southee (0-63) looked threatening with the new ball but David Warner and Labuschagne nullified the danger, preserving wickets over big scoring, until 15 minutes prior to lunch.

Black Caps paceman Neil Wagner (1-40) claimed the prized scalp of Warner for 41 – the star opener pushing out a full delivery and sending a thick edge to the diving Southee to leave Australia 61-2.

Labuschagne – who arrived in the first over – played a patient innings, cementing himself at the crease alongside former Australia captain Smith.

Spared a life following a mix-up in running with Smith as Williamson missed the stumps, Labuschagne brought up his fifth successive 50-plus score with an edge off Boult.

Labuschagne enjoyed success against Mitchell Santner (0-34), pulling a short ball for six before Smith lofted a delivery straight into the sightscreen as the Australia pair clubbed the New Zealand spinner for 17 runs in an over.

But just as Labuschagne was looking comfortable, the in-form batsman deflected a Colin de Grandhomme (2-48) delivery off his elbow and onto the stumps in the middle session before tea.

That brought Matthew Wade (38) to the crease and he renewed his battle with Wagner – the Australian managing to make it through a torrid period before the last interval.

As Smith entered Australia's top 10 of all-time leading run scorers in Test cricket thanks to his 28th Test fifty, De Grandhomme's delivery nipping away from Wade, who edged to BJ Watling.

Mitchell Swepson could make his Test debut in the series finale against New Zealand after being called into Australia's squad for the Sydney showdown.

Leg-spinner Swepson has been added to the squad for the third and final Test, which gets underway at the SCG on January 3.

Swepson, whose only international appearance came in a Twenty20 against England in 2018, has taken 12 wickets from six Sheffield Shield games at 26.58 this season.

The 26-year-old Queenslander could join Nathan Lyon in a two-pronged spin attack against the Black Caps – who are fighting to keep the series alive in the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne.

"Having Mitch in Sydney gives us the option to play two specialist spinners if the conditions demand," National selector Trevor Hohns said. "We will make those assessments when we get to Sydney."

Meanwhile, veteran paceman Peter Siddle has been released from the squad after Australia opted for James Pattinson to replace injured quick Josh Hazlewood at the MCG.

"Having Sids [Siddle] as the 13th man and his experience at the MCG has been invaluable," Hohns added. "His insights have greatly assisted the fast bowlers for this Test and it was great having him around the group.

"James has been with the squad through the summer, has performed well Marsh Sheffield Shield matches and is thoroughly deserving of his recall to the team."

Australia can wrap up the series in Melbourne following their 296-run rout of New Zealand in Perth.

Pat Cummins is "clearly the best bowler in the world" and is only getting better with experience according to Australia captain Tim Paine.

Paceman Cummins is the ICC's top-ranked Test bowler and this year became the second fastest Australian quick to 100 wickets in cricket's longest format.

Cummins will feature for Australia in the second Test against New Zealand, which starts on Thursday, and returns to the MCG where he took 6-27 and hit 63 against India in last year's Boxing Day Test, which the hosts lost.

Skipper Paine hailed the talents of the 26-year-old, who has 134 wickets in 28 Tests at an average of 22.18.

"He's clearly the best bowler in the world, his stats will probably back that up," said Paine, whose side hold a 1-0 lead over the Black Caps in the three-match series.

"Not just for one series, or one Test, or two Tests here or there, he's done it every game.

"I think he's getting better with experience as well, I think you're noticing he's not always bowling high-140s anymore, which is a great, great attribute and skill."

Trent Boult will return for New Zealand for the Boxing Day Test against Australia, skipper Kane Williamson has confirmed.

Paceman Boult missed the first Test, which New Zealand lost by 296 runs in Perth, due to a rib injury sustained against England.

However, the left-armer is back in a boost for Williamson's men, while the skipper also confirmed Tom Blundell is to replace Jeet Raval at the top of the order.

Speaking about Blundell's inclusion, Williamson said: "He's a positive player and a smart cricketer so it's just trying to adapt to the conditions. 

"It's important he goes out and plays his natural game.

"He's been a very good player for a long time and he's a mature head. It's a really exciting opportunity for him."

After making scores of just 166 and 171 in the first Test, Williamson is confident New Zealand have learned plenty ahead of the second contest at the MCG.

"Perth was tough and Australia are very good and tactically sound," he said.

"It's important we learn from some bits of Perth but turn our focus to Melbourne and changing conditions and perhaps not be too reactive to that performance."

Marnus Labuschagne has made a spectacular start to his international career and he can join several Australia greats during the Boxing Day Test.

Labuschagne, 25, has cemented his spot at number three in Australia's batting order heading into the second Test against New Zealand in Melbourne.

The right-hander only made his Test debut in October last year, but he has taken his chance.

Labuschagne has scored 1,103 runs at 58.05, including three centuries, which have come in his past three Tests.

History awaits if he can make it a century in four consecutive Tests in Melbourne.

Only five Australians have managed that feat in Test history and Labuschagne can add his name to the list.

Don Bradman managed it three times – including in a record six straight Tests against England in 1937-38.

Jack Fingleton (1936), Neil Harvey (1949-50), Matthew Hayden (2001-02 and 2005) and Steve Smith (2014-15) are the other Australians to have scored centuries in four straight Tests.

New Zealand struggled to find an answer to Labuschagne in Perth, where he made scores of 143 and 50 in a comprehensive victory for Australia.

Labuschagne only made his first Test century last month and there has been no looking back.

Now, less than 15 months after his Test debut, he has the chance to join a group of Australia's best on a huge stage at the MCG.

Tim Paine revealed Australia were yet to decide whether to play a fifth bowler in the Boxing Day Test against New Zealand in Melbourne.

With Josh Hazlewood (hamstring) sidelined, James Pattinson is set to come in, but Michael Neser could also be included for a Test debut.

Paine said Australia would wait until Thursday to confirm their line-up as they keep an eye on the MCG wicket, which has been lifeless in recent years and is set to again draw plenty of attention.

The Australia captain said they had "two different teams" ahead of the Test, while playing down any suggestions playing a fifth bowler would be a risk.

"Not looking at the wicket that we played on in the last two or three Boxing Day Test matches, that wicket has been very hard to take 20 wickets," Paine told a news conference on Wednesday.

"If it's something similar to that then it's certainly a possibility that that's the way we go.

"Our batting team in the last few months has been scoring a lot of runs so if we were to go one more bowler we'd be comfortable they would do the job and obviously the bowlers we would be bringing in can all bat.

"Whilst we're taking a batter out we're probably lengthening our line-up a little bit so we'll see what happens tomorrow and go from there."

An additional bowler would mean Paine, who averages 30.40 in Tests, would move up from seven to six in the batting order.

But the 35-year-old is unfazed, saying: "If I have to bat in the top six that's what I'll do.

"I'm not too fussed whether it's six or seven, there's not a huge difference so we're all here to do what we think is best for the team.

"If guys bat up or down the order a little bit more than usual then that's what we'll do, same with our new-ball guys, we swap the new ball around and guys have taken that on board and played their role."

Brad Mooar will leave the Scarlets at the end of his first season in charge to complete the New Zealand coaching staff.

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) on Tuesday confirmed an agreement had been reached with the Welsh region, who will be paid compensation for head coach Mooar to return to his homeland in June.

The former Crusaders assistant coach will assist new All Blacks boss Ian Foster and take the role of attack coach.

Foster last week brought in John Plumtree to look after the forwards and Greg Feek as scrum coach, while also retaining Scott McLeod to coach the defence. 

The All Blacks head coach, who replaced Steve Hansen after New Zealand's failure to win an unprecedented third successive Rugby World Cup, said: "We're delighted to have Brad confirmed to join us.

"I know the new coaching group is excited and keen to get into their work next season and we'll look forward to welcoming Brad in following his commitments with Scarlets.

"On behalf of the All Blacks, I'd also like to thank Scarlets for their understanding around Brad's release. It is very much appreciated."

Mooar said: "To be joining the All Blacks coaching staff next year is an incredibly humbling and proud moment for my family and me.

"The opportunity to help coach your country comes around very rarely, so I would like to thank the Scarlets club for allowing me to join the All Blacks.

"Similarly, I’d like to thank Ian Foster and NZR not only for this opportunity, but also to finish the season with the Scarlets."

Mooar joined the Scarlets at the end of the 2019 Super Rugby season following Wayne Pivac's appointment as Wales head coach.

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