England's much-maligned top order finally showed some resolve to preserve the tourists' slim chance of pulling off a remarkable first Test triumph against South Africa.

It appeared South Africa were nailed-on victors when they capitalised on some shoddy England bowling to make 272 all out in their second innings and set Joe Root's men an improbable target of 376 at Centurion.

If England do achieve the unlikely, it would be their record run-chase, surpassing the 359 against Australia at Headingley earlier this year.

The early signs were encouraging with Rory Burns and Dom Sibley digging deep - aided by a couple of moments of fortune - before the latter was dismissed late on day three as England closed on 121-1, requiring another 255 to take an early advantage in the four-match series.

Burns was the stand-out performer, reaching 77 not out at the close, and playing the dominant role in an opening partnership of 92 on a deteriorating pitch.

It could have been so different, however, had he not opted to review when given out leg before to Kagiso Rabada in the first over. Replays showed the ball would have been missing off-stump and he had another let-off when Rassie van der Dussen spilt a presentable chance in the slips off Vernon Philander.

After that he played near faultless cricket, combining stout defence and fluent shotmaking to frustrate a Proteas attack that lacked the spark they had earlier in the match.

The one breakthrough came when Sibley pushed a harmless delivery back to spinner Keshav Maharaj for 29 but the hosts could make no further inroads with Joe Denly unbeaten on six at stumps.

While no doubt pleased with their late resistance, England will rue a shambolic opening hour that, had it been avoided, would have meant a more manageable run chase.

They were not helped by captain Root spending as much time in quarantine in the England dressing room as he did out in the middle but that was no excuse for a torrid opening to the day that saw a couple of missed run-out opportunities, some sloppy outfielding and a verbal spat between senior bowler Stuart Broad and Root's deputy Ben Stokes.

Add in some woeful bowling with Broad and Jofra Archer, in particular, persisting with a short-pitched barrage that never looked likely to reap rewards and it was easy to see why England have appeared on a downward trajectory in the longest format for much of 2019.

Nightwatchman Anrich Nortje appeared comfortable - bar one moment when he required a review to overturn a decision that saw him given out off Sam Curran when the ball clipped his shoulder before being snaffled by stand-in wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow.

He and Rassie van der Dussen put on 50 before the latter perished for a well-made 51, Archer finally pitching one up to produce a lbw call that was confirmed after a review.

Archer then snared Nortje two overs later before Stokes got in on the act to remove Dwain Pretorius.

Although the wickets were starting to tumble at one end, Quinton de Kock was looking menacing at the other with Archer coming in for some hammer from the South Africa wicketkeeper.

It therefore came as some relief to the tourists when Stokes induced a nibble from De Kock (34 from 37 balls) and Bairstow did the rest.

Vernon Philander continued to impress in the first Test of his final series with a belligerent 46 before he was the last man out as the South Africa innings was wrapped up for 272, Archer finishing with figures of 5-102.

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.

South Africa opener Aiden Markram will miss the rest of the Test series against England due to a fractured finger.

Markram requires surgery on his fourth left finger after suffering the injury on day two of the first Test in Centurion.

In a statement on Saturday, Cricket South Africa (CSA) said Markram would miss at least six weeks, with surgery scheduled for early next week.

"Aiden sustained a fracture affecting the distal joint of his left ring finger," CSA chief medical officer Dr Shuaib Manjra said.

"After consulting with a number of hand specialists yesterday we arrived at a decision that the best outcome would be achieved through surgical reduction and fixation. This would mean him unfortunately missing the rest of the series against England.

"We feel for Aiden who worked extremely hard to come through his previous hand fracture sustained in India to be Test match ready."

Markram made 20 in the first innings and fell for two in the second as South Africa were reduced to 72-4, leading England by 175 runs in the opening Test of four.

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.

South Africa all-rounder Vernon Philander was left frustrated by the umpires' decision to rescind a second no-ball against Jofra Archer.

England paceman Archer – who took two wickets as South Africa were limited to 72-4 at the start of their second innings – finished his day with a pair of beamers, though the second delivery was not given as a no-ball despite apparently being called as one by square-leg umpire Paul Reiffel.

With the umpire at the bowler's end, Chris Gaffaney, having not given a signal for no-ball, however, the officials elected not to make Archer send down an additional delivery.

Both Faf du Plessis and Proteas coach Mark Boucher held discussions with the match officials after the close of play, and Philander, who finished England's first innings with figures of 4-16, was angered by the umpires' decision.

"If you're at square-leg and you call no-ball you've got to stand your ground," he said. "At no time did they actually cancel it.

"For me it's plain and simple: we're playing a game and we're setting an example for the rest of the people coming into this game. You've got to make the right call.

"That's why it's called the purest format. Are we going to tolerate it at another game or are we going to put a stop to it right here? It's in the hands of the umpires."

Archer held a conversation with the umpires after the second delivery, with replays suggesting the ball was dipping towards the bails having passed the batsman at shoulder height. 

"Don't try silly things that can cost you bowling another ball in the innings," Philander, who had no sympathy with Archer, said.

"The umpires have to make a call and hopefully it's the right one for the game looking forward."

Joe Denly knows England must find a way to halt their batting collapses after South Africa built a 175-run lead on day two at Centurion.

Denly was England's top scorer with 50 on Friday as the tourists were all out for 181, losing their final seven wickets for just 39 runs.

James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Jofra Archer led the England fightback with the ball, restricting South Africa to 72-4 by stumps.

However, Denly acknowledged England's batsmen must now step up if Joe Root's side are to keep themselves in contention in the first Test of a four-match series.

"It's frustrating. It felt pretty comfortable out there. Myself and Ben [Stokes] were starting to get a really good partnership going. I managed to nick one and we lost a few wickets after that," Denly told Sky Sports.

"We spoke at tea about trying to bat long, keep them out there as long as we could. It wasn't to be in the end but a great fightback at the end.

"We have spoken about trying to get those first innings runs. It's trying to assess the conditions a bit better, understanding game situations, where we're at, who's bowling, trying to get through those tricky periods and wear them down that way.

"You have to be clear in your plan. What is the surface doing, how the bowlers are trying to get you out and working together as a partnership, get through those tough periods.

"We're in a stronger position than where we could have been. A big morning coming up and hopefully the batters can get some runs."

Denly was dropped while still on zero, though looked comfortable at the crease up until he reached his half century, succumbing to Dwaine Pretorius three balls later.

"It was tough, a very impressive opening spell [from South Africa], very high-class bowlers and they challenged us. It was tough," Denly said when asked about his performance.

"I was just being patient, I knew it was going to be tough and they were going to make me work hard for every single run, but it was just a case of being patient and sticking to my plan of trying to have a tight defence and seeing off [Vernon] Philander and [Kagiso] Rabada to start with.

"Once the new ball wore off, it was hot off there as well, so they couldn't charge in for too long, I managed to find a bit of fluency."

England suffered another batting collapse but the tourists battled back to limit South Africa to 72-4 at the start of their second innings in an action-packed second day at Centurion.

Having finished off South Africa's tail within three overs in the morning session, England took to the crease chasing 284, with the Proteas owing much to Quinton de Kock's knock of 95 on day one.

However, after Rory Burns and Dom Sibley fell early, Joe Denly (50) – who was dropped on zero – helped steady England's innings, but captain Joe Root (29) conceded his wicket with a slack flick outside off stump.

De Kock was the star in the field for South Africa, taking six catches as the issues that plagued England's Ashes series came back to haunt them again, though the tourists did make it to 142-4.

But a collapse of seven wickets for 39 runs handed South Africa a healthy 103-run lead.

James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Jofra Archer made quick inroads as South Africa lost four wickets inside 15 overs. Still, the Proteas should be confident of victory as they head into day three with a lead of 175 runs.

Sam Curran impressed for England on day one but his figures of 4-58 were matched when he dismissed Vernon Philander (35). 

But after frustrating England with the bat on Thursday, Philander made a swift impact with the ball, with a delivery outside off stump flicking Burns' glove on its way through to De Kock.

South Africa's wicketkeeper took his second catch in the next over, sending Sibley walking from Kagiso Rabada's shorter delivery.

Denly got lucky when Rassie van der Dussen put him down in the slips, as Philander finished an exceptional first spell with five successive maidens.

Root and Denly managed to form a solid partnership until lunch, after which England's captain played a sloppy shot that handed Philander his second wicket, and De Kock another catch.

With support from Stokes (35), Denly reached 50 with a superb boundary through the covers, but he succumbed to an inside edge three balls later, and England subsequently crumbled either side of tea.

Anderson claimed a wicket with the first delivery of the Test, and needed just five balls this time around to draw an edge from Aiden Markram.

Broad and Archer soon got in on the act – Jos Buttler taking fine catches to dismiss Zubayr Hamza and Dean Elgar.   Aggressive play from Faf du Plessis (20) got South Africa on the front foot, only for the Proteas captain to pick out Curran in the deep from Archer's bowling as England finished on a high.

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.

Sam Curran believes England let Quinton de Kock get into his stride too easily, but says it was a positive day for the tourists at Centurion.

Curran was the outstanding performer for England as his four wickets helped keep South Africa in check on day one of the first Test.

His haul included the dismissal of De Kock, whose 95 was instrumental in guiding the Proteas – who lost Dean Elgar to James Anderson on the first ball of the day and had been 97-4 – to 277-9 by stumps.

De Kock was fortunate early in his innings as he hit a quickfire 50, but picked his shots with more caution after surpassing a half-century, before eventually edging a Curran delivery through to Jos Buttler.

Though Curran conceded England could have done better to restrict De Kock, he feels he and his team-mates are in a strong position heading into day two.

"Obviously we'd have liked to have bowled them out by the end of the day but to have them nine down and under 300, it's pretty even," Curran told Sky Sports.

"Anytime you choose to bowl first there's going to be a lot of pressure on the bowlers to take a load of the wickets but what a better way to start, with Jimmy [James Anderson] on his 150th Test. A great start and we all enjoyed that.

"De Kock probably got away from us a bit too quickly as the day went on but to get him so he can't bat with the tail was pretty good. 

"I think you watch him in one-day cricket and he just plays his shots, he's a great player, so we expected him to play his natural game, even in Tests.

"He probably got away a bit too quickly when he came in, got a foothold. He probably rode his luck a bit as well but fair play to him, he got a good score."

England elected to play five seamers, though all-rounder Ben Stokes was unable to bowl as he struggled with illness and dehydration in the heat.

"I think Stoksey's suffering with dehydration, I started suffering with cramp towards the end, nothing serious, but I managed to carry on," Curran said.

"There was not much breeze and it was pretty hot, so it was tough work but I think we coped well."

Sam Curran led the way for England as his four-wicket haul helped the visitors restrict South Africa to 277-9 on day one of the first Test at Centurion.

With Ben Stokes unable to bowl due to struggling with illness and dehydration, Curran seized the initiative to reward Joe Root's decision to put the Proteas in after winning the toss.

His dismissal of Quinton de Kock for 95 was crucial, with South Africa's wicketkeeper-batsman having frustrated England after coming in with the hosts wobbling at 97-4.

De Kock had got lucky on his way to a 45-ball fifty; James Anderson, who dismissed Dean Elgar with the first delivery of his 150th Test appearance, missed a difficult chance as Joe Root, England’s spin option in a seam-heavy attack, twice went close.

It was Curran's day, though, as the 21-year-old rounded off a fine performance with the vital breakthrough when a century for the left-hander looked a certainty, giving England the edge at stumps.

Back in action at Test level for the first time since the start of the Ashes in August, Anderson made an instant impact, Elgar caught down leg as he feathered an edge through to wicketkeeper Jos Buttler.

Determined not to be outdone, Curran wasted little time in making his mark, taking just four deliveries to draw Aiden Markram into a tame flick that was well caught by Jonny Bairstow.

Faf du Plessis and Zubayr Hamza managed to steady the ship for the home team, though the latter eventually went on 39 to Stuart Broad as South Africa reached lunch on 79-3.

With Jofra Archer and Anderson toiling in the afternoon, Curran was reintroduced – and immediately sent back Rassie van der Dussen, who saw a defensive prod only provide Root with a simple catch at first slip.

South Africa skipper Du Plessis provided his counterpart with a simple catch from Broad's bowling soon after too, leading to De Kock taking an aggressive approach in tricky circumstances.

Riding his luck at times, the 27-year-old cruised to a quick fifty, with Dwaine Pretorius (33) providing some welcome support.

Though Curran ended a sixth-wicket stand worth 87 after the restart, De Kock began to show greater discipline as he continued to drag South Africa up towards 300.

Yet Curran finally had his man when a full delivery nipped away slightly, with a thin edge going through to Buttler. He thought he had a five-for soon after, only for Keshav Maharaj to successfully review an lbw decision thanks to an inside edge.

Archer instead ended Maharaj's short stay at the crease and Kagiso Rabada succumbed to Broad in the closing stages, the fall of the ninth wicket ending proceedings on the opening day.

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.

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