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."

Australia head coach Justin Langer insisted star opener David Warner will be "ready to go" for the Boxing Day Test against New Zealand in Melbourne.

Warner sent a scare through the Australia camp on Monday after he was struck on his left hand during a net session at the MCG.

The 33-year-old batsman – who posted scores of 43 and 19 in the 296-run rout of the Black Caps in Perth – returned to the nets later in the day, while he also featured on Tuesday morning.

Despite concerns, Langer declared Warner a certain starter for the second Test as Australia look to seal a series victory.

"He's fine," Langer told reporters on Tuesday. "There was a little concern for about two seconds and then he saw the doctor and he's hitting balls again.

"We know how well he's playing at the moment, we know how much all the boys love playing Test cricket and Boxing Day cricket … so he'll be ready to go."

"It's not unusual for Davey to do that," Langer said of Warner taking his left hand off the bat at times. "He's in really good nick, he's a very experienced player now, he knows how to prepare. As I said, I've got absolutely no worries that he'll be raring to go."

Langer, who also confirmed James Pattinson will replace injured quick Josh Hazlewood for his first Test on Australian soil since 2016, revealed Australia are pondering a selection shake-up.

The MCG has produced a lifeless pitch over the years, though a Sheffield Shield match earlier this month had to be abandoned due to a dangerous surface and unpredictable bounce.

If the pitch continues its theme, Langer said Australia could drop a batsman and field five frontline bowlers against New Zealand.

"The Australian cricket team doesn't usually go down that path of having an extra bowler," said Langer. "But if we're going to play on a wicket like we have in the last two years or so here at the MCG, we've certainly got to find a way to take 20 wickets.

"If we turn up on Boxing Day and it looks really flat, we've got the flexibility to be able to do it. In most circumstances ... we don't play an extra bowler because you don't need to do it.

Tom Blundell will replace the struggling Jeet Raval for New Zealand in the Boxing Day Test against Australia.

Raval has scored just 66 runs in his past nine Test innings, making two scores of one in the series opener in Perth.

Blundell played in two Tests against West Indies in late 2017, including making a century on debut while batting in the lower-order.

The 29-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman said he may have to change his approach when the second Test starts in Melbourne on Thursday.

"I think it's just a mindset shift, it's being a little bit patient outside off-stump and getting through 30-odd balls," Blundell told Radio Sport on Sunday.

"Once you do that, expanding my game from there."

He added: "You try to still bat the same, it's just the first 30 balls you're going to have to be a little bit more patient outside that off-stump.

"If I can last those 30 balls, hopefully can bat a little bit more positively."

Blundell opened for New Zealand during a tour game against a Victorian XI on Sunday, retiring on 59.

The Black Caps were comprehensively beaten by Australia by 296 runs in the first Test.

James Pattinson is set to make his return for Australia's Boxing Day showdown against New Zealand, according to head coach Justin Langer.

Pattinson missed the Test series against Pakistan after he was suspended for the opening match in November due to a level two breach of Cricket Australia's code of conduct for abuse of an opposition player in the Sheffield Shield.

But the Victoria paceman is poised to replace injured quick Josh Hazlewood for the second Test against New Zealand at the MCG in Melbourne, despite Peter Siddle being drafted into the squad.

"I am really looking forward to seeing Patto bowl and bowl well in this Boxing Day Test, which is his home ground as well," Langer told 6PR on Saturday.

"James Pattinson was 12th man in the last game and I hope what I have shown in the last 18 months is that we have been really consistent in our selection.

"He's been unlucky, he only played a couple of Tests in the Ashes and he is so hungry like Mitchell Starc.

"The way he has come back from playing [two] Tests in the Ashes has just been brilliant."

Australia can wrap up the three-Test series following their 296-run rout of the Black Caps in Perth.

All eyes will be on the MCG pitch when Australia and trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand do battle, starting Thursday.

MCG curator Matt Page has come under fire after a Sheffield Shield match was abandoned due to an unsafe surface earlier this month.

"I know they are going to be under some pressure, there is no doubt about that," Langer said. "But I also know that Matt Page is an incredibly hard worker.

"They got it wrong in the last Shield game, but they were getting it right for the two Shield games before.

"He'll have some nervous nights Pagey, but I am confident he will get a good wicket up."

Glenn Maxwell struck a spectacular 83 from 39 deliveries on his return to competitive cricket as Melbourne Stars got their Big Bash League campaign off to a winning start with a 22-run victory over Brisbane Heat.

Australia batsman Maxwell, who in October decided to take a break from cricket for mental health reasons, was in inspired form as he lifted his side to a total of 167-7 in Carrara.

England youngster Tom Banton threatened to lead the Heat to their target, but Brisbane lost their way after the opener was dismissed by Adam Zampa (3-30) for a 36-ball 64.

Although Matt Renshaw reached 39, Brisbane were limited to 145-8, with Zampa, Daniel Worrall (2-21) and debutant Haris Rauf (2-20) doing the bulk of the damage.

The Heat have now lost their opening two games while the Stars will look to build on a win that owed much to Maxwell's stunning return.

MILLION-DOLLAR MAXWELL RETURNS IN STYLE

Maxwell had not played since scoring 62 for Australia in a Twenty20 against Sri Lanka in Adelaide in October, but the all-rounder looked like he had never been away.

A day on from the Indian Premier League auction, he showed just why Kings XI Punjab elected to pay $1.5million for his services.

After reaching 50 from just 23 balls, Maxwell continued to toy with Brisbane's attack, sending Josh Lalor for two sixes in an over and taking his boundary tally to 12 before he was bowled by Ben Laughlin in the final over of the Stars innings.

"[It's a] nice way to start a tournament. The boys bowled beautifully 'til the end when Tom Banton was batting well and they pulled things back," Maxwell told reporters.

"We've got some strength in our bowling, guys like Sandeep [Lamichhane], and Haris Rauf was outstanding. I feel we've really covered all bases this year. I've been feeling good all summer and just the mental side of the game I need to get right."

RAUF HITS THE MARK ON HIS DEBUT

Seamer Rauf was handed his first start in the BBL, and the 26-year-old took his opportunity to impress.

After an expensive second over from Lamichhane, Rauf was drafted into Melbourne's attack early, and made the ideal start by dismissing Max Bryant with his first delivery.

Banton had the better of Rauf, but after a spell out of the attack, he kept things tight late in the innings following the excellent work of Zampa and rounded off the win by taking Mitchell Swepson's wicket in the final over.

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