February 21, 2016

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) Joe Burns and Steve Smith made centuries in a record 289-run third-wicket partnership on the second day of the second test against New Zealand Sunday, making Australia's accession to the top ranking in test cricket almost a certainty.

Burns posted his third century in 10 tests and was out for 170 shortly before stumps, surpassing his previous highest test score of 129 and lifting Australia to 363-4 in reply to New Zealand's first innings of 370.

Smith shrugged off a dazing blow to the head in the over before tea to post his 14th test century, making 138 before also falling in the few minutes before stumps.

After looking invulnerable for most of the second day at Hagley Oval and forming a partnership which occupied almost six hours and 80 overs, Smith and Burns fell to identical dismissals within two overs near the close of play.

Both were caught by Martin Guptill at backward square leg off Neil Wagner as the policy of short-pitched bowling New Zealand had pursued for most of the day - and which resulted in Smith being dazed by a Wagner bouncer - finally bore fruit.

The back-to-back dismissals slightly shortened the odds of Australia avoiding defeat here and taking from India the status of the world's top-ranked test nation. Australia lead the series 1-0 after it won the first test by an innings and 52 runs.

Australia lost only three wickets Sunday. Usman Khawaja was out for 24 in the fourth over of the morning when Australia was 67-2 and New Zealand still harbored ambitions of achieving a first innings lead.

But from then on the day was one of unremitting toil for the New Zealand bowlers as a steady stream of runs flowed from the bats of Burns and Smith and barely a chance was offered to excite the fielding side.

Burns was finally out near stumps when Australia was 356-3 and after batting for almost 7-1/2 hours, facing 321 balls and hitting 20 fours. He pulled a a short ball from Wagner to Martin Guptill at backward square leg and Smith played almost the same shot to be out two overs later at 357-4.

Still, with Adam Voges at the crease at stumps at 2 not out and nightwatchman Nathan Lyon 4 not out, Australia remained in command of the match. Voges scored 239 in the first test at Wellington and has the chance to bat New Zealand out of the match on a docile pitch on the third day.

Australian batsmen have had rich pickings against New Zealand bowlers this summer, compiling innings of 556-4, 559-9 and 562 during the three-test series in Australia before Christmas and the return series in New Zealand.

Smith had a scare just before tea when he tried to duck under a bouncer from Wagner, turned his head and was hit on the back of the helmet. He sunk to his knees then flopped prostrate on the pitch, apparently dazed, before being helped to his feet and revived.

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