3 Jan 2020

Makeshift Black Caps on back foot

8:18 pm on 3 January 2020

A heavily depleted New Zealand side are on the back foot after the first day of the third and final cricket Test against Australia in Sydney.

Stand-in captain Tom Latham leads the Black Caps off the SCG.

Stand-in captain Tom Latham leads the Black Caps off the SCG. Photo: Andrew Cornaga/Photosport

After winning the toss and electing to bat first, the home side were 283-3 at stumps at the SCG on Friday.

Red-hot No 3 batsman Marnus Labuschagne again led the way with his fourth century in five Tests, ending the day 130 not out after forging good partnerships with both Steve Smith (63) and David Warner (45).

For New Zealand, Colin de Grandhomme took the wickets of both Smith and opener Joe Burns (18), while Neil Wagner removed Warner in the first over after lunch to ensure the left-hander again failed to reach fifty for the series.

It was a long and arduous afternoon for the Black Caps, after what had been a chaotic morning just deciding on their 11 players for the match.

Captain Kane Williamson, fellow batsman Henry Nicholls and all-rounder Mitchell Snatner were all eventually ruled out after several days battling a viral infection.

Williamson's illness brought about a reprieve for out-of-form opener Jeet Raval, while the loss of Nicholls meant Aucklander Glenn Phillips was handed a Test debut having only arrived in Sydney on Thursday night.

Santner was also swapped out for leg-spinner Todd Astle, but the changes were not done there.

The absence of injured opening bowler Trent Boult saw Matt Henry drafted in, with the decision to play two spinners meaning Will Somerville was the fifth and final change.

Somerville's selection meant Tim Southee was left out, a call which was put down to his heavy workload in the first two Tests but surprised some given his vast experience and success in those two matches.

Spin duo Somerville and Astle bowled 30 wicketless overs between them, although the SCG surface is expected to take more and more turn as the match wears on.

With the foundation down for another sizeable Australian first innings and New Zealand set to bat last, such a prediction for the pitch was not positive for a Black Caps side hoping to prevent a series clean-sweep.