SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia reached lunch on 95 for one in the third test against a New Zealand side rendered almost unrecognisable by illness and injury at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Friday.
Black Caps captain Kane Williamson and batsman Henry Nicholls were ruled out of the match by the flu virus just before the toss, while spinner Mitch Santner did not leave the team hotel after his condition worsened overnight.
Tom Latham was named captain of the side in Williamson’s place and his first act was to lose a toss New Zealand would have been desperate to win after selecting two spinners and dropping paceman Tim Southee.
Australia, already assured of winning the three-match series after big victories in Perth and Melbourne, took the obvious decision to bat first and largely prospered in the face of a makeshift New Zealand attack.
David Warner reached the first break unbeaten on 48 with Marnus Labuschagne alongside him on 28 not out in a partnership of in-form batsmen that already looked ominously settled.
Warner’s opening partner Joe Burns was the one Australian batsman to fall, continuing his disappointing run of form when he squared up to a Colin de Grandhomme delivery and was caught by Ross Taylor in the slips for 18.
De Grandhomme opened the bowling with Matt Henry after New Zealand decided to give Southee a rest because of the heavy workload he has already undertaken on the tour.
With Southee’s usual strike partner Trent Boult ruled out by injury, New Zealand started a test for the first time in more than a decade without one of the pair or Williamson in the side.
Both teams were wearing black armbands in memory of those who have lost their lives in the bushfires and lined up before the match to unite with the crowd in a minute of applause for the emergency services fighting the conflagrations.
The skies were clear of the bushfire smoke that has shrouded the city on several occasions over the last few months and has organisers prepared for delays during the match.