New Zealand v Australia, Day 4: Australia inch closer to No. 1 spot in Test ranking after being set a target of 201
Australia's pursuit of the No. 1 spot in the ICC Test Rankings is close to coming to fruition as they are only 131 runs behind the target set by New Zealand, with nine wickets in hand a day's play left. After having dismissed the home side for 335 in the second innings, Australia just had to chase down 201 with more than a day to go and were well on their way to accomplishing that as they ended Day 4 on 70/1.
New Zealand had ended Day 3 in a spot of bother, with only Kane Williamson as the established batsman at the crease. Corey Anderson played a good hand as he made a patient 40 off 148 balls and was involved in an important partnership of 102 runs with the New Zealand vice-captain.
Williamson, on the other hand, fell short of his 14th Test century by three runs as he was bowled by Jackson Bird. However, it was not before Williamson became the youngest and the fastest Kiwi batsman to reach 4000 Test runs. He reached the landmark in 89 innings and at an age of 25 years, 199 days.
BJ Watling and Matt Henry put in a vital 118-run partnership for the eighth wicket as they helped take New Zealand's lead to a respectable 200. Watling scored 46 while Matt Henry scored his maiden fifty in international cricket and hit 12 boundaries in his knock of 66.
Jackson Bird picked up his maiden Test five-wicket haul while James Pattinson picked up four wickets for the visitors.
With more than a day to go, Australia were never in any kind of pressure to chase down the mediocre total of 201. David Warner and Joe Burns scored runs at a healthy rate for the first wicket before Neil Wagner found the edge of Warner's bat.
Usman Khawaja and Burns then ensured that Australia did not lose any more wickets as the visitors finished the fourth day on 70/1, just 131 runs away being throned as the Number 1 Test nation in the world.
It will take a miracle for the Kiwis to pull this one back as they will need to pick up early wickets on Day 5 and put the pressure back on their trans-Tasman rivals. Australia, on the other hand, only need to play risk-free shots and canter their way to a comfortable series win, bringing an end to Brendon McCullum's career.
Brief Scores: Australia 505 & 70/1, 20 overs (Burns 27*; Wagner 1/13) trail New Zealand 370 & 335, 111.1 overs (Williamson 97, Henry 66; Bird 5/59, Pattinson 4/77) by 131 runs.