Ross Taylor stood firm as New Zealand plunged towards defeat in pursuit of a record test run chase in the first cricket test against Australia in Brisbane today.
Taylor’s fourth test half-century, 67 not out, lifted New Zealand to 143 for six at stumps on the third day, still at big odds to reach their victory target of 327.
Wickets tumbled regularly right up until the day’s final ball when allrounder Grant Elliott didn’t offer a shot to Stuart Clark and was bowled for nought.
Clark was the chief destroyer with three for 23 on another dark day for New Zealand’s batting lineup.
Taylor, and to a lesser extent Daniel Flynn, were the only batsmen to stand tall against the hosts as New Zealand slumped to 49 for four.
At that stage the match was threatening to not even reach the fourth day at a sun-drenched Gabba after Australia were dismissed for 268 to set New Zealand an imposing chase.
The record highest test runchase at the Gabba was 236 for seven by Australia against the West Indies in 1951-52, while New Zealand’s best chase in Australia was 164 for four in Perth in 1985-86 -— their previous test win across the Tasman.
It seemed New Zealand believed the statistics on a third day pitch at its best for batting.
Opener Jamie How was dismissed first ball, caught by Ricky Ponting at second slip, to give Australian paceman Brett Lee his 300th test wicket.
A jubilant Lee joined compatriots Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Dennis Lillee in the 300 club when How drove at an outswinger and edged a comfo rtable catch.
Aaron Redmond had his second failure of the test, on 10, when Clark juggled and held a waist-high return catch.
Inswingers both accounted for Jesse Ryder and Brendon McCullum who perished leg before wicket in the space of three overs.
Ryder was removed for 24 to some Mitchell Johnson reverse swing then McCullum continued his struggles against Australia when he padded up to Clark on three.
The New Zealand vice-captain averages just 14.18 from 11 test innings against their biggest foes.
Flynn showed some more application to help Taylor add 84 for the fifth wicket, batting 98 minutes for 29, before he was bowled by Johnson late in the day.
Taylor looked comfortable against the Australian pacemen and hit 10 fours in his rollicking 101-ball innings.
It will be left to he and captain Daniel Vettori to continue the mission improbable on day four, although senior paceman Chris Martin said they hadn’t given up hope.
“We still think we’re a chance, we’ve got Roscoe out there playing very well and we just have to keep the faith in our captain and hope the sort of the performance that the Australian tail put on today, we can potentially put on ourselves,” he said.
“It’s going to be a big ask, it is going to be a little bit of a miracle but it’s something we will be trying hard for tomorrow.”
Earlier, opener Simon Katich was the thorn in New Zealand’s side as Australia resumed on 131 for six, an overall lead of 189.
He rode his luck, carrying his bat through the innings to end 131 not out in a tick under six hours, his sixth test century and fourth of the calendar year.
As happened on the second day, New Zealand missed a royal chance to hurl the home side against the ropes.
Katich was dropped twice on the way to his century, on 70 when paceman Iain O’Brien missed a sharp one-handed return catch, then on 86 when Jesse Ryder snatched at a bat-pad chance from Vettori.
Martin, who sparked Australia’s col lapse with three wickets yesterday, said the missed chances hurt.
“They were crucial. For many touring teams that come to Australia, it seems to define whether you win or lose, how you field.
“We did put a couple down but for the majority of the game we have fielded well.”
The captain was clearly the best New Zealand bowler and deceived Brad Haddin (19) and Lee (seven) with flight to reduce the hosts to 186 for eight.