Marnus Labuschagne insists he should not be compared to Steve Smith after the Australia batsman continued his phenomenal run of form with another century against New Zealand.

Labuschagne finished day one at the SCG unbeaten on 130 as the hosts, who already have an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series, reached 283-3.

It was Labuschagne's fourth ton of the Australian summer, having reached three figures in back-to-back Tests versus Pakistan, and prolonged an extended purple patch.

After entering the Ashes as Test cricket's first concussion substitute when Jofra Archer struck Smith at Lord's, the 25-year-old scored four consecutive fifties to cement his place in the Australia side.

"I haven't had time to sit down and think about how the whole year has unfolded, it's been pretty special," he said, before referencing the stuttering start that followed his Test debut against Pakistan in October 2018.

"This time last year I was sitting here and there was a lot of questions. I'm thankful for the opportunity and scoring runs is always nice. I never take it for granted though, because it can turn very quickly.

"I'm definitely not comfortable. You grow in confidence facing the same opposition – you get used to bowler, you get used to their actions."

Smith, who played a supporting hand with 63, finds himself in the unusual position of not being his side's heaviest runs scorer, although Labuschagne believes he has a long way to go before he reaches the same levels as the former captain.

"I wouldn't be drawing any comparisons to Steve yet," he said. "He's played 73 Tests and averages 63. He's been doing it for a long time and his consistency is amazing.

"Today he showed it again. We do spend a bit of time together and I do enjoy batting with him – watching him go about it and how he figures out different plans.

"It is nice. Once we're both in we talk about different things out there. Nothing changes, I still love batting with him."

Indeed, Labuschagne enjoys batting with Smith so much that he was largely unaware of his team-mate taking 39 deliveries to get off the mark – the latter's duel with left-arm paceman Neil Wagner continuing in absorbing fashion.

"I actually had no idea he was on zero until the 38th ball. I actually thought we were rotating the strike quite well, which is quite funny," Labuschagne chuckled.

"I wondered what all the carry on was and he was like, 'I'm on zero'."

The final Test of Australia's home season is taking place against the backdrop of bushfires ravaging the country and Labuschagne paid tribute to the firefighters trying to tackle the situation

"If all we did today was create a distraction of a bit of enjoyment for people in these tough times then that's a win for us," he added.

"But the focus should be on the firies [firefighters] and what they're doing for the community. That's the most important thing at this moment in time."

Marnus Labuschagne extended his fine run of form as Australia's dominance of New Zealand continued in Sydney on Friday.

Labuschagne scored his fourth century in his past seven innings as Australia controlled the opening day of the third Test at the SCG.

The right-hander made an unbeaten 130, striking 12 fours and a six as the hosts – who are looking for a series sweep – reached 283-3 at stumps after deciding to bat first.

Steve Smith (63) and David Warner (45) made decent contributions, while Colin de Grandhomme (2-63) managed two breakthroughs on a difficult day for New Zealand.

The tough day started before a ball was bowled as the Black Caps made five changes, with Kane Williamson, Henry Nicholls and Mitchell Santner out through illness and Tim Southee not picked.

Losing the toss only added to their woes, but De Grandhomme did manage to land an early blow.

Joe Burns (18) edged a delivery that moved away slightly and Ross Taylor took a simple catch at first slip.

But it was an otherwise comfortable opening session for Warner and Labuschagne as Australia got to lunch at 95-1.

Needing another wicket, New Zealand found it shortly after the break, Warner pulling Neil Wagner (1-48) to De Grandhomme at leg gully.

The Black Caps managed to slow Australia's scoring, with Smith needing 39 balls to get off the mark.

Labuschagne brought up his fourth Test century during the final session with a four down leg off De Grandhomme before New Zealand wasted a review for lbw against him off Will Somerville (0-52).

De Grandhomme managed to get Smith with the second new ball – the star batsman edging to Taylor – before Matthew Wade (22) and Labuschagne got to stumps with Australia in a commanding position.

New Zealand captain Kane Williamson was among three players ruled out of the third Test against Australia on Friday, as the illness-hit Black Caps made five changes to their XI.

Already missing Trent Boult due to his fractured hand, New Zealand were dealt further blows as Williamson, Henry Nicholls and Mitchell Santner all fell victim to a virus that has swept their camp.

Tom Latham captained the tourists in Williamson's absence, while Glenn Phillips was handed a Test debut having only arrived in Sydney as cover the previous evening.

The Black Caps' other changes saw Jeet Raval, Will Somerville, Todd Astle and Matt Henry included, with Tim Southee the fifth player to drop out of the line-up from the last Test.

"It's been a tough 48 hours for us," said Latham at the toss. "We've had a bit of sickness and a virus that has gone through the team, which is unfortunate.

"Obviously Kane and Henry are down and Mitch Santner is down, those guys gave their best chance this morning to be right but unfortunately they're not right."

The loss of Williamson represented a particularly tough break for New Zealand, with the 29-year-old averaging 51 in Tests and having made 21 centuries from 78 appearances.

Australia, who won the toss and opted to bat, were unchanged, with Nathan Lyon continuing as the sole frontline spinner despite the call-up of the uncapped Mitchell Swepson.

The hosts are seeking a 3-0 series sweep after comfortably winning the first two Tests in Perth and Melbourne.

Glenn Phillips has been called up to the New Zealand squad for the final Test against Australia as doubts hang over the availability of Kane Williamson and Henry Nicholls.

Captain Williamson and fellow batsman Nicholls have been laid low by viral infections ahead of the third Test at the SCG, which starts on Friday.

Uncapped Auckland Aces batsman Phillips has been flown out to Sydney as a precautionary measure. 

Williamson and Nicholls were unable to train on Thursday, but coach Gary Stead is hopeful they will recover in time to be included in the Black Caps side as they attempt to avoid a 3-0 whitewash.

"We've obviously got a few balls up in the air at the moment and we want to be on the safe side and have options," Stead said.

"Glenn has been in terrific form this season and has good versatility with where he can bat and the roles he can play.

"He's been around the Black Caps T20 team for the past couple of years so should feel comfortable in the environment.

"We're still hopeful Henry and Kane will pull through and we will give them every chance to prove their fitness.

"If one or both are ruled out then we will consider our options and, most importantly, how they balance the side for this final Test."

 

Tom Latham hopes Kane Williamson can play for New Zealand in the third Test against Australia as the Black Caps' squad is hit by the flu.

Williamson missed training for the second straight day on Thursday on the eve of the Test starting in Sydney.

Henry Nicholls and Mitchell Santner are also suffering from illness in a blow to New Zealand's preparations for the final Test of the series at the SCG.

Latham, the New Zealand vice-captain, hopes star batsman and skipper Williamson can take his place.

"I think it'll take a lot [to keep Williamson out]," he told a news conference.

"He's obviously a great leader amongst this group and he's passionate about this group.

"I'm sure if there's any chance of him playing, even if it is a small chance, he'll certainly be playing."

Latham said he was unsure whether the ill New Zealand players would be available, but he is hopeful.

"Obviously it's up in the air at the moment, but a couple of boys are a little bit crook unfortunately," he said.

"But they're going to have today off as well as yesterday so fingers crossed that they'll be right to go tomorrow."

Tim Paine backed staff to make the right decisions amid concerns over poor air quality during Australia's third Test against New Zealand in Sydney.

Bushfires are raging across Australia, including in New South Wales, leading to concerns over the air quality ahead of the Test at the SCG.

Paine said he had discussed the issue ahead of the Test, which begins on Friday, amid worries over the players' health.

"Not at the moment I'm not [concerned], but again we're lucky that in the Australian setup we've got world-class doctors and people that are put in place to make those decisions," the Australia captain told a news conference.

"As a playing group we're just focusing on what we can control which is going out and playing and we'll be doing that until we're told otherwise.

"I've been given a sort of rough guide but basically when it gets smoky, we're coming off.

"Our doc I think is having a pretty big say in reading the levels of air quality and stuff like that so I think it's all set, we know the number. If it happens it happens and unfortunately that's life."

Australia, leading the three-Test series 2-0, are set to go in unchanged despite expectations the pitch in Sydney is set to be spin-friendly.

Paine said Australia would wait to make a decision, with leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson part of the squad, adding they could either drop a batsman or paceman if they wanted to play another spinner.

"We've got some guys in and around our squad that provide quite a bit of flexibility," he said.

"I think even with someone like James Pattinson can really lengthen our batting anyway.

"We're lucky that we can go either way, both have sort of been discussed a little bit, I think our preference would be to keep the winning combination together."

Nathan Lyon has described four-day Test matches as "ridiculous" and made it clear he strongly opposes the idea of shortening contests in the game's longest format.

Two four-day Tests have already been played after the ICC approved a trial in 2017, while Cricket Australia chief executive Kevin Roberts said the issue is one his organisation will "consider really seriously" when it looks at its next cycle of international matches from 2023-2031.

Speaking on The Unplayable Podcast, Lyon offered a passionate defence of five-day Tests.

Asked for his thoughts on four-day contests, he responded: "Ridiculous. You look at all the big games around the world and some of the best Test matches I've been part of, they go down to the last day.

"You look at [Australia] against India at Adelaide in 2014, that went down to the last half-an-hour on day five. Then you look at Cape Town in 2014 as well, you look at that Test match [between South Africa and Australia] where Ryan Harris bowled Morne Morkel with two overs to go, so that's gone down to the last 10 minutes on day five.

"I'm not a fan of four-day Test matches. I believe you'll get so many more draws and day five is crucial. One, there's the weather element.

"But [also] the wickets these days are probably a lot flatter than they have been in the past, so it allows teams to bat longer and to put pressure on sides … and you need that time for the pitch to deteriorate and bring spinners in more on day five as well.

"I'm totally against it and I really hope ICC aren't even considering it."

Australia may go into the third Test against New Zealand unchanged as coach Justin Langer said it would be hard to make alterations.

Mitchell Swepson was added to the Australia squad for the Test beginning on Friday at the SCG, where the pitch is expected to spin.

However, having dominated on their way to a 2-0 lead in the three-Test series, Langer said it would be difficult for Australia to make changes.

"It's going to be hard to make changes," he told a news conference on Wednesday.

"That said, I think it's really important that we wait because we've seen it in the [Sheffield] Shield games, the groundsman's telling us he's expecting it to spin so we have to show that some respect as well, but the boys are playing so well.

"We've talked about keeping the same group together as much as possible. The fact that James Pattinson came in and bowled so well in the last Test match as a replacement for Josh Hazlewood, that's really heartening for our depth obviously.

"We've still got Michael Neser, we've got Mitch Swepson here, he's bowling very well, his improvement warrants for him to be here.

"We'll wait and see the next two days what the wicket looks like."

Hazlewood missed the second Test in Melbourne due to a hamstring injury and the paceman has been ruled out of the final match in the series.

Langer said Australia may try to get more overs from Marnus Labuschagne, who has taken 12 Test wickets at 36.33 with his leg-spin.

"It might give us an opportunity to bowl Marnus, bowl Travis Head a few overs, to find those extra overs we're looking for," he said.

"Every time Marnus gets the ball in his hand, it's pretty exciting. He's working hard on getting his lines right so he makes them play a bit more, but he's an exciting prospect.

"I think the way he spins the ball, the more he can bowl in games, that's important, whether it's white-ball cricket, or Sheffield Shield cricket, or Test cricket. Like we've seen his development as a batsman, the more he can bowl the more he'll improve I think."

Will Somerville is hopeful of getting another chance for New Zealand in the third Test against Australia in Sydney.

Somerville was called up by the Black Caps to replace the injured Trent Boult, with the off-spinner in line to play his fourth Test.

The 35-year-old has represented New South Wales and the Sydney Sixers previously but, despite being added to the squad, Somerville said he was no certainty to play at the SCG.

"I wouldn't say I'm expecting, just see how things unfold in 48 hours and just the normal procedure for picking a Test side I suppose, assessing the wicket and what the balance is going to look like," he told a news conference on Wednesday.

"I'm hopeful to play for sure, but I'll just take that as it comes."

Somerville was thrilled to be back in Sydney as he looks to add to his three Test appearances for New Zealand.

He took 14 wickets at 25.14 in his first three matches, while scoring 65 runs at an average of 32.50.

"I did look at the schedule 12 months ago after I made my Test debut for the Black Caps and I was pretty excited at the prospect and was hoping to go on the tour," Somerville said.

"Two days ago, got the call and was playing Twenty20 cricket for Auckland and sort of pinching myself a little bit that I'm here, in front of the members and talking to you guys."

New Zealand are 2-0 down in the series ahead of the third and final Test starting on Friday.

Travis Head says Australia's players "have every confidence in our officials" with the third Test against New Zealand set to go ahead despite the ongoing bush fires sweeping the country.

The blazes across New South Wales and Victoria have claimed 12 lives so far, with thousands of people having to move to coastal areas to escape the ongoing crisis inland.

It has resulted in blankets of smoke drifting across several cities which has, in turn, affected sporting venues with the Big Bash game between the Sydney Thunder and Adelaide Strikers abandoned 10 days ago due to poor air quality.

The third Test is due to get underway at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Friday, but Head played down the importance of cricket at a time when people were facing such difficulties, and also backed those in charge to make the right calls.

Speaking at Sydney Airport, the South Australian told reporters: "There's a lot more concerns than just the game of cricket, I guess.

"There's a lot more people being worse affected than us. Our thoughts are with them and we'll just play the game as best we can for our health and safety. We have every confidence in our officials.

"Player safety is obviously an aspect of it but, having seen what happened in Canberra a couple of weeks ago, I'm sure the match officials will put us in the best position and we won't have to worry about it too much."

Head hit a century in the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne as Australia established an unassailable 2-0 lead over the Black Caps and was pleased to have made a contribution, especially after coming in for some harsh criticism from former skipper Ricky Ponting.

He added: "It was nice to get some runs. I've had limited opportunity with the way our batters have been playing so there was a little bit of frustration over whether I'd get an opportunity to go out and get a big score, so it was nice once I got a start to do that and contribute for Australia."

In previous years, teams tended to relax after winning the series, but the new ICC Test Championship means there are points up for grabs at the SCG and Head is adamant Australia will continue to play at full throttle.

"There's a lot to play for. We've been fantastic at backing up games, something that hasn't been a strength of ours over the past couple of years – winning games after winning series – and we're on a roll at the minute, playing some wonderful cricket.

"So, hopefully, we can finish the summer really well."

Australia have added D'Arcy Short to their ODI squad for the upcoming tour of India.

The opening batsman has been drafted in as a replacement for Sean Abbott, who is expected to miss between three and four weeks with a side strain sustained during the Sydney Sixers' Big Bash League fixture against Sydney Thunder last Friday.

National Selector Trevor Hohns said: "It is extremely unfortunate for Sean who is very much a part of our white ball squad plans leading into the ICC T20 World Cup and the World Cup.

"D'Arcy offers the squad another spinning all-rounder option along with Ashton Agar, which along with the four world-class fast bowlers and Adam Zampa balances the squad out nicely. 

"His proven record and ability to bat anywhere in the order will also be a great asset to the squad."

Short has played four ODIs for Australia, the last of which came against South Africa in November 2018.

Australia will play three ODIs in India between January 14 and 19.

Nathan Lyon is in no mood to give up his Australia place and hand Mitchell Swepson a taste of Test cricket because Shane Warne would never have done likewise.

Australia took an unassailable 2-0 lead in their three-match series against New Zealand by closing out a comprehensive 247-run win in the Boxing Day Test at the MCG.

It means there could be a temptation to look to the future in Sydney later this week, with uncapped leg-spinner Swepson part of Tim Paine's squad.

However, the lack of a seam bowling all-rounder in the party means the most viable way of putting the 26-year-old in the XI would be to rest experienced off-spinner Lyon.

Warne is among those who has urged Swepson's inclusion but Lyon shot back – invoking the Australia great's long-time rivalry with compatriot Stuart MacGill, himself an exceptional leg-spinner whose opportunities in international cricket were limited by sharing an era with one of the finest talents to grace the game.

"Did Warney ever want a rest and give Stuart MacGill a go? I won't be resting," Lyon, whose 380 Test wickets place him 18th on the all-time list, told reporters.

"I haven't met any Australian cricketers that would like to be rested.

"It's that hard playing Test cricket, but it's that rewarding as well so every opportunity you get to play cricket for Australia, it means the world to us.

"So I can't imagine Mitch Starc, Pat [Cummins] or Patto [James Pattinson] putting his hand up to say I need a rest.

'I know talking to those guys just after the game last night they're pretty pumped about coming up to Sydney and hopefully going three-nil up in the series against the number two team in the world.

"There's definitely no-one in that bowling cartel that really wants to put their hand up and say 'I want a rest'."

Nevertheless, Lyon professed himself to be a huge admirer of Swepson's talents and would relish playing in tandem with his fellow tweaker.

"Mitch has been bowling brilliantly for Queensland," the 32-year-old said.

"He's a great fella to start off with, but he gives it a rip and that's what I really love to see.

"I'm a big fan of Mitch, it's great to see him in and around our squad so he gets his chance and fingers crossed we can have a great combination together."

Lyon added: "I really enjoy bowling with another spinner.

"We get through our overs quite quickly and feel like we can build some pressure.

"If Sweppo does get his opportunity, to play alongside another leg-spinner is going to be pretty exciting but it's not up to me to make that call."

New Zealand have called up Will Somerville for the third Test against Australia after Trent Boult was ruled out through injury.

Paceman Boult, who missed the opening match due to a side strain, was ruled out of the series finale after sustaining a fracture in his right hand on day three of the second Test in Melbourne.

Somerville has made three appearances for the Black Caps in the longest format and will join the team in Sydney on Tuesday.

"There's no secret the SCG pitch is one of the more spin-friendly in Australia," said New Zealand coach Gary Stead.

"Will offers something different to our two other spinners in the squad with his right arm off-spin and height.

"The fact he's played a lot of cricket in Sydney during his career for New South Wales will also be helpful as we prepare for this final Test."

Australia claimed a series win over New Zealand after easing to victory in the Boxing Day Test, despite a fighting display from centurion Tom Blundell.

New Zealand wilted in the Melbourne heat at the MCG, where Australia wrapped up a crushing 247-run win on day four of the second Test on Sunday.

Blundell rallied for the Black Caps, celebrating his second Test hundred in three matches with a resilient 121 runs, but he had no support from his team-mates after Nathan Lyon (4-81) and James Pattinson (3-35) starred.

Marnus Labuschagne (1-11) ended Blundell's unforgettable innings late in the evening as Australia only required nine wickets to skittle New Zealand for 240 – Trent Boult not batting due to a fractured finger.

Australia declared,168-5, 10 overs into the penultimate day – the hosts setting New Zealand a mammoth 488 for victory as temperatures soared.

Already humbled by 296 runs in Perth, the Black Caps faced an uphill battle to keep the series alive in their first Boxing Day appearance in Melbourne in 1987, and Pattinson wreaked havoc on Sunday morning.

After a lively and tenacious start by Pat Cummins (0-47), Mitchell Starc (0-59) and Australia, Pattinson made an immediate impact with the wicket of opener Tom Latham for 8.

Pattinson – back in the team as a replacement for injured quick Josh Hazlewood – flourished on his home ground, claiming another two wickets before lunch to leave New Zealand reeling on 38-3.

After trapping captain Kane Williamson for a duck – his seventh against Australia – Pattinson then removed Ross Taylor (2), who chopped onto his own stumps.

Blundell dug deep following lunch with a half-century as New Zealand showed some fight, only losing one wicket in the middle session after Henry Nicholls (33) fell to Lyon.

BJ Watling (22) and Mitchell Santner (27) were the only other players to provide support for Blundell en route to a century on another forgettable day for New Zealand.

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."

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