Marnus Labuschagne continued his stunning form with a third straight Test century as Australia made a strong start against New Zealand in Perth.

After winning the toss, Australia ended Thursday on 248-4 in the day-night contest, which is the first of three Test matches between the teams.

When he was on 95, Labuschagne, who had gone past 1,000 runs in only his 12th Test earlier in the innings, smashed a six off Mitchell Santner over long on.

He calmly saw out the day from there, finishing on 110 not out from 202 deliveries with 14 boundaries and that one maximum, and will return on day two alongside Travis Head (20no).

Labuschagne's exploits came after he recorded scores of 185 and 162 against Pakistan last month.

Neil Wagner (2-52) provided the main resistance for New Zealand, who lost Test debutant Lockie Ferguson to a calf injury and will hope the problem is not serious after being a bowler light for the final 22 overs.

Opener Joe Burns rued his decision not to appeal after being given out lbw to Colin de Grandhomme for just nine in the 13th over, replays showing the delivery would have missed leg stump.

David Warner could not replicate his epic partnership with Labuschagne from the Pakistan series as he fell for 43, sending a low full toss back to bowler Wagner, who dived forward to take a key scalp.

It meant Warner remains tantalisingly short of Don Bradman's Test haul of 6,966 runs, now six adrift.

But Labuschagne did find a partner in Steve Smith, the pair putting on 132 for the third wicket.

That crucial partnership should have been thwarted only for Smith to be dropped by Tom Latham at second slip off the bowling of Ferguson while on 19, Ross Taylor unable to gather the rebound.

Smith eventually fell for 43, though he had occupied the crease for 164 balls by the time Wagner had him caught by Southee.

New Zealand took the new ball as soon as it became available and Southee claimed his first wicket when he bowled Matthew Wade for 12, a superb in-swinging delivery doing the job.

Head survived an lbw appeal and a dangerous moment where he inside-edged past his own leg stump, but he gained in confidence from there and ended the day with four boundaries.

Labuschagne was the constant presence at the other end and he will have his sights set on a huge score as Australia's patience approach gave them the edge after an intriguing first day.

New Zealand are monitoring Trent Boult's fitness ahead of the first Test against an unchanged Australia side at Perth Stadium.

Boult has been troubled by a side strain and could miss the day-night contest, which starts on Thursday.

Batsman Ross Taylor (thumb) and all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme (abdominal muscle) are set to feature in the first of three Tests between the trans-Tasman rivals.

Black Caps captain Kane Williamson said of Boult's availability on the eve of the match: "We're going to have another look today before deciding anything for Thursday.

"I think you look at it as a long-term decision in terms of this whole series. He has tracked really nicely and felt really good on Tuesday."

Lockie Ferguson could make his debut in the longest format after the paceman missed out in a 1-0 win over England.

"It’s exciting we've got Lockie in our squad to consider him," said Williamson. "It's exciting to have a guy in our camp who can bowl at that speed."

Australia have gone with the same side that completed a whitewash of Pakistan.

"We've been playing some really good cricket, happy with the way it's going so we're trying to get a consistent team together and as I touched on after Adelaide, the great thing is we've got guys that are performing really well," Australia skipper Tim Paine said.

"That's what we wanted so we're going to go with the same team."

 

 

Ian Foster knows he will have to "reinvent" himself after stepping up to replace Steve Hansen as head coach of New Zealand.

Foster was on Wednesday appointed as All Blacks boss on a two-year deal.

The 54-year-old spent eight years as assistant to Hansen, who left his post following the Rugby World Cup.

Foster is aware he must stamp his own mark on the role in order to make New Zealand the best in the world once again after they were beaten by England at the semi-final stage in Japan.

"I guess I've got a job now to reinvent myself a bit with the public and with the media." said Foster.

"I've been eight years as an assistant coach and my job was to try to be the best assistant the All Blacks needed me to be.

"We've had a big fella [Hansen] there who I love greatly and he's got his own style and my style has been to complement that.

"Now it's time for you to see me in a new light and that's up to me to show you that I'm innovative, I've got a sense of direction of where I want this team to go, and I'm extremely passionate about adding a new touch to it and to really grow and get some mana back on the field, which we feel we might have lost."

Foster, whose contract starts at the beginning of 2020, got the nod over Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson, who was also interviewed for the job.

Incoming New Zealand Rugby chief Mark Robinson hinted Robertson's time may come to take charge of his country.

"As someone who knows Razor well as a former team-mate, he was a very impressive candidate and these decisions are never easy." said Robinson.

"We know Razor is an outstanding coach and I have no doubt he’ll have a big future in our game at international level."

Ian Foster will step up from assistant to head coach of the All Blacks, it was confirmed on Wednesday.

Foster replaces Steve Hansen at the helm of New Zealand on a two-year deal beginning in 2020, New Zealand Rugby (NZR) announced.

The 54-year-old has been an All Blacks assistant coach since 2012.

"The NZR board has today ratified Ian Foster as the new head coach of the All Blacks from 2020," NZR chairman Brent Impey said in a statement.

"He brings world-class international experience to the role, an incredibly strong coaching team, and we think he'll do an outstanding job. 

"The interview process was extensive and really difficult, which reflects the very strong applications from both candidates."

Foster was delighted to take the job, with Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson having also been interviewed.

"I feel truly privileged and honoured to be given this opportunity and I can't wait to lead the team into the next chapter of what is a remarkable legacy," he said.

"I'm incredibly proud of what we have achieved in the All Blacks over the last eight years and I'm excited and energised by a new coaching team who will join me.

"It's incredibly humbling to be appointed to the job and I have a strong desire to serve the jersey well and represent New Zealand to the best of my ability."

Steve Smith is backing Melbourne Cricket Ground curator Matt Page to deliver an acceptable wicket for the Boxing Day Test between Australia and New Zealand.

The final match at the MCG before that contest - the Sheffield Shield clash between Victoria and Western Australia - had to be cancelled on Saturday due to an unsafe pitch.

Umpires called off day one after Western Australia batsmen Shaun Marsh and Marcus Stoinis were struck multiple times amid unpredictable bounce.

Cricket Australia promised to ensure there is a wicket of "international standard" for December 26, though, and Smith has no doubt Page will do the necessary hard work.

"I'm sure they'll produce something good for us on Boxing Day," the Australia superstar said ahead of the first Test in Perth this week.

"It's a really fine line with that wicket. Pagey is a very good curator - he'll be working as hard as he can to try to get a wicket that is suitable for bat and ball.

"These guys have a really tough job. They've tried a lot down in Melbourne but not been able to get something that is a bit more bowler friendly.

"They're going to work hard over the next couple of weeks to get us a good wicket for Boxing Day."

A dangerous pitch has forced the MCG's final match before the Boxing Day Test between Australia and New Zealand to be cancelled in Melbourne on Sunday.

Preparations for the December 26 Test were thrown into chaos after the Sheffield Shield clash between Victoria and Western Australia was suspended on Saturday.

Umpires decided to call off day one of the match due to an unsafe wicket, after Western Australia batsmen Shaun Marsh and Marcus Stoinis were struck multiple times amid unpredictable bounce.

Cricket Australia (CA) released a statement, ensuring there will be a wicket of "international standard" ready for the Boxing Day blockbuster as organisers and curators were left scrambling.

The teams returned on Sunday but after a morning inspection it was agreed for the match to be abandoned, despite extensive work from the ground staff.

While a different strip will be used for the Australia-New Zealand Test, it has sparked cause for concern ahead of the trans-Tasman fixture.

"We won't be losing the Boxing Day Test," Victorian sports minister Martin Pakula said. "I understand there is disappointment about the Shield match being abandoned but I've spoken to Stuart Fox [Melbourne Cricket Club chief executive] yesterday and today.

"The wicket being used for the Boxing Day Test is a different wicket to the one used yesterday and I've got no doubt that by the time we get to Boxing Day in a couple of weeks from now the wicket will be in perfect order for a Test match."

"I applaud the MCC for trying to prepare a wicket with more life in it," Pakula added. "It has been criticised in recent years for being too favourable to batsmen. The club is trying to find more balance between batting and bowling and they will keep working on that not just this year but in years ahead."

Australian Cricketers' Association (ACA) chief executive Alistair Nicholson added: "The right decision has been made. When player safety comes into it there's no debate from our point of view."

The opening Test between Australia and New Zealand starts in Perth on December 12.

Cricket Australia will ensure there is a wicket of "international standard" ready for the Boxing Day Test between Australia and New Zealand after Saturday's play at a Sheffield Shield match was abandoned due to unpredictable bounce.

Shaun Marsh and Marcus Stoinis were each struck multiple times by bouncers on day one of the clash between Victoria and Western Australia, forcing the umpires to step in and call a halt to proceedings because of the danger posed by the pitch.

Play is due to resume on Sunday - WA were 89/3 at the time of the suspension - at 10:00 local time (23:00 Saturday GMT), with Cricket Australia focused on ensuring there are no such problems for the second Test with New Zealand.

"We're very disappointed at today's play being abandoned in the Marsh Sheffield Shield match between Victoria and Western Australia," Cricket Australia's head of cricket operations Peter Roach said.

"But we also acknowledge that there have been two previous Shield matches at the MCG this season without incident.

"The MCG groundstaff have more than two weeks to ensure the Test surface, which is a different pitch strip to the one being used in this match, is of international standard.

"We will seek to better understand the issues that resulted in variable bounce at the MCG on Saturday. We will also work closely with MCG groundstaff in the lead up to the Test match.

"The safety of our players is always our highest priority. The decision to suspend play and roll the wicket in an effort to address the variable bounce was the correct one and I applaud umpires [Phillip] Gillespie and [Geoff] Joshua for the decisive action taken."

The Boxing Day match of 2017 was marred by pitch issues of a different nature, with a drop-in surface providing next to no help for the bowlers as Australia and England meandered to a draw in the fourth Ashes Test.

Australia's Trans-Tasman Trophy series with New Zealand starts in Perth next Thursday.

Preparations for the Boxing Day Test between Australia and New Zealand have been thrown into chaos after a dangerous MCG wicket forced a Sheffield Shield match to be suspended.

Australia and trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand are scheduled to meet in Melbourne for the second match of a three-Test series, starting December 26.

But Saturday's Sheffield Shield clash between Victoria and Western Australia was called off, leaving organisers and MCG curators scrambling in a worrying sign.

Western Australia batsmen Shaun Marsh and Marcus Stoinis were struck multiple times on day one of the Shield match, prompting umpires to take action due to unpredictable bounce.

Play is scheduled to resume at 10:00 local time on Sunday.

The opening Test between Australia and New Zealand starts in Perth on December 12.

Trent Boult and Colin de Grandhomme will travel to Australia with the New Zealand squad after making "good progress" following their injuries.

Boult and De Grandhomme missed the drawn second Test against England due to rib and abdominal injuries respectively.

However, the pair will fly to Perth – where the first Test against Australia begins on Thursday – with the rest of the Black Caps squad, it was confirmed.

"Trent Boult and Colin de Grandhomme are both making good progress with their injuries and successfully trained today at Bay Oval," the Black Caps wrote on Twitter on Friday.

"The pair will travel with the team to Perth tomorrow."

New Zealand recorded a 1-0 series win over England and face Australia in three Tests, beginning with the clash in Perth.

Melbourne will host the Boxing Day Test before the teams meet in Sydney beginning January 3.

England assistant coach Graham Thorpe wants players to use their experience of the 1-0 Test series defeat in New Zealand to develop a harder edge.

Joe Root's side are back in action in South Africa later this month, with the first of four Tests starting on Boxing Day at Centurion.

James Anderson, Mark Wood and Jonny Bairstow are expected to return to the squad having sat out the trip to New Zealand, where a draw in Hamilton meant the tourists were unable to overturn an innings defeat in the first Test at Mount Maunganui.

Nevertheless, Thorpe acknowledges there is a bigger picture to consider when it comes to England developing their Test game under new head coach Chris Silverwood – namely the next chance to regain the Ashes in 2021-22.

"We've got to keep developing our players, no doubt about that. They have to ask themselves when they come away from a trip like this: where can I get better?" said Thorpe, as quoted by The Guardian.

"Because the big picture is that down the line, in a couple of years' time, we'll need resilient cricketers going to Australia.

"It’s down to our players to be honest and for us to be honest with them.

"If we are going to keep trying to go up that Test ladder and really compete abroad then we have to keep challenging the players along the way."

England captain Joe Root backed Jofra Archer to bounce back after the paceman struggled to have an impact in the 1-0 Test series loss to New Zealand.

Archer finished with just two wickets at an average of 104.50 as England lost the series after the second Test was drawn in Hamilton on Tuesday.

But Root backed the 24-year-old, who saw Joe Denly drop a simple chance to dismiss Kane Williamson off his bowling on day five, to respond.

"He's found out that Test cricket is hard. You sometimes don't get the rewards you deserve in Test cricket," he told Sky Sports.

"He is a fantastic talent and there's no doubt he's going to contribute to England in Test cricket.

"I expect him to bounce back quite quickly. He's a fast learner."

Williamson and Ross Taylor made unbeaten centuries at Seddon Park before the rain arrived, leading to a drawn second Test.

Root was unsurprisingly left disappointed after the series loss, saying: "It was a frustrating day.

"I thought we tried everything as a bowling group, a couple of chances didn't stick. I thought we were forcing the issue a lot of the time."

Black Caps captain Williamson praised his team after holding on for a draw on a flat pitch in the second Test.

"It was a great fighting effort over the last couple of weeks. We know how strong the England side is. To lose both tosses but to keep showing that fight was really pleasing to see," he said.

"The first match for us was a fantastic victory. To come here and back it up with another strong performance was really pleasing."

New Zealand Cricket (NZC) has lodged a complaint with local police in response to the racist abuse directed at Jofra Archer during the first Test in Mount Maunganui.

NZC apologised to Archer and launched an investigation after the England paceman said a spectator shouted "disturbing" insults on the final day at Bay Oval last week.

The matter has been turned over to authorities in the North Island city of Tauranga as attempts to identify the individual continue.

"Information gathered from an inquiry which included studying CCTV footage, listening to audio, interviewing bystanders and obtaining material on social media has been incorporated in the complaint," read an NZC statement.

"While the information-gathering exercise was useful, NZC has been unable to conclusively identify the person responsible and is therefore unable to comment on public speculation regarding his personal details."

NZC chief executive David White said sufficient evidence had been gathered to warrant police involvement.

"What happened to Jofra was reprehensible and has led to a general upscaling of security around the area of racial abuse at all our international venues," he said.

"Should the person responsible ever reoffend, we believe we have enough information to link him to the Bay Oval incident."

White said NZC would seek to impose a "lengthy" ban from all international venues in New Zealand if police inquiries ended in a conclusive identification.

England lost the match by an innings and 65 runs and were consigned to a series defeat on Tuesday as a rain-affected second Test ended in a draw.

Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor scored centuries before the rain arrived as the second Test between New Zealand and England was drawn on Tuesday.

Williamson (104) and Taylor (105) were unbeaten when the weather stopped play in the second session on day five at Seddon Park in Hamilton.

The pair had put on 213 for the third wicket as the Black Caps got to 241-2 – a lead of 140 runs.

England had their chances – Joe Denly dropped a simple catch in the opening session – but fell to a 1-0 series defeat.

The flat Seddon Park pitch continued to offer little, but England did themselves no favours in their bid for an unlikely victory to begin day five.

Williamson was dropped on 39, Ollie Pope unable to hold onto a regulation catch down leg side off Ben Stokes (0-58).

Denly then put down an even easier chance when the New Zealand captain was on 62.

Jofra Archer (0-27) was already celebrating as Williamson poked a soft shot to Denly at midwicket, but the simple chance was dropped.

That was as close as England got to a wicket as Williamson reached his 21st Test century and Taylor his 19th after back-to-back sixes.

Taylor also went past 7,000 Test runs, becoming the second New Zealander – after Stephen Fleming – to reach the milestone.

Cameron Bancroft has been dropped by Australia in what is otherwise a settled Test squad to face New Zealand.

Australia recorded innings wins in both Tests against Pakistan and opted to name a 13-man squad for their three meetings with the Black Caps.

Bancroft has struggled in the Sheffield Shield and his omission was the only change to the squad named to face Pakistan.

"As we said prior to the Pakistan series we are striving to maintain a core group of players. The performance of the team against Pakistan was very impressive across all areas, while there is always some room to improve," Australia national selector Trevor Hohns said in a statement on Tuesday.

"David Warner has been in exceptional form with the bat. The support he received from Joe Burns in Brisbane and Marnus Labuschagne in Adelaide was exactly what we had been asking for from the top order. They delivered, setting up both matches in what was an outstanding all-round performance.

"We are backing the current batting line-up to continue their form across the next three Tests. Whilst not a part of this squad, Cameron Bancroft remains one of the standby players. Similarly, depending on conditions, we reserve the right to add a player to the squad at any time during the series.

"Michael Neser and James Pattinson will continue as cover for Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood through the series. Michael will play for Queensland against New South Wales in the Marsh Sheffield Shield game at the SCG, as James did last week for Victoria."

The first Test between Australia and New Zealand will begin in Perth on December 12 before matches in Melbourne and Sydney.

Australia: Tim Paine (c), Joe Burns, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.

Joe Root believes England can win the second Test against New Zealand if they can get on a "wicket train" early on the final day.

England captain Root reached 226 on day four – his first overseas double century and his longest innings at 10 hours, 36 minutes – at Seddon Park before falling to Mitchell Santner as the tourists lost their last five wickets for 21 runs.

New Zealand saw Jeet Raval fall to a second-ball duck and Tom Latham dismissed for 18 in the final session, but Kane Williamson (37 not out) and Ross Taylor (31no) guided the Black Caps to stumps.

A draw appears to be the most likely result as rain is forecast for much of Tuesday, but Root thinks England have a shot at securing a 1-1 series draw if they can get Williamson and Taylor out quickly.

"If we can make an early breakthrough, it could get us on a bit of a wicket train, because they're such key figures in their batting line-up," said Root.

"They've got huge amounts of experience and are class players, so it would give our guys a lot of confidence for sure.

"They're two experienced players who you expect a bit of rearguard from – they know how to play in those situations, and on a good surface you expect a bit of a fightback from the number two side in the world."

He added: "I wanted to try to get us in a position where we could force a result in this game. A good couple of wickets tonight, it would have been nice to get a couple more.

"But I still feel it we can sneak a couple tomorrow morning first thing – I know there's a bit of weather around but you just never know. There will be one big last push from everyone to try and come away with a levelled-up series.

"We'd have taken this position at the start of the day."

Neil Wagner sparked the decimation of England's tail by removing Ollie Pope and he went on to claim his fourth five-wicket haul in as many Tests, but the left-armer was modest when assessing his performance.

"I was a bit lucky to get the rewards. All the other bowlers bowled well, too, and grafted away," said Wagner.

"It just sort of came my way and I ended up getting a couple of wickets which is quite nice and pleasing and satisfying.

"But all the bowlers bowled well with not a lot of luck and reward. We hunt as a pack and bowl really well in partnerships and I was lucky it came my way."

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