Middle order batsman Travis Head reached his eighth half-century and was 57 not out at the break, with captain Tim Paine on 33.
MELBOURNE: New Zealand paceman Neil Wagner denied Steve Smith his first century of the home summer but Australia’s batsmen dug in to push to 336 for five at lunch on day two of the Boxing Day test on Friday.
Middle order batsman Travis Head reached his eighth half-century and was 57 not out at the break, with captain Tim Paine on 33 at a sunbathed Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Wagner, who dismissed Smith twice in the series-opener with the short ball in Perth, removed the former skipper for 85 with another bouncer that reared up and pinged off the shoulder of the bat before being plucked out of the air with one hand by a leaping Henry Nicholls in the gully.
Kane Williamson’s team were briefly buoyed by the wicket but Head and Paine counter-attacked with vigour in their unbeaten 52-run partnership to take the wind out of the tourists’ sails.
Australia resumed on 257 for four in the morning and held the New Zealand attack at bay until Smith’s wicket shortly after the drinks break.
Trailing 1-0 in the series after losing the pink ball test in Perth by 296 runs, New Zealand will need quick wickets after lunch to hold hopes of a series-levelling victory.