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‘He’s the reason why they can’t win’

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Cricket: Steve Smith has ended Day 1 of the Boxing Day Test against New Zealand unbeaten on 77 as Australia got off to a strong start.

New Zealand's Mitchell Santner is the reason why they can’t win the Test, according to Mark Waugh.Source:AP

Australia walked out of the MCG on the opening day of the Boxing Day Test with their heads held high.

Steve Smith led the charge with the willow as the Aussies piled on 4/257 as the New Zealand bowling attack failed to take control of the contest.

Smith ended the day not out on 77 after eclipsing Marnus Labuschagne’s 63. Colin de Grandhomme was the pick of the bowlers for the Kiwis, finishing with 2/48.

Here are the biggest talking points from day one.

LEGEND PINPOINTS KIWIS ‘WEAK LINK’

New Zealand were dealt a cruel blow in the opening Test when they lost Lockie Ferguson after just 11 overs.

Now at the MCG the fast bowlers have been left hanging by the lacklustre efforts from spinner Mitchell Santner.

Santner bowled only seven overs on the opening day’s play and went for 34 runs as the Aussies comfortably dispatched him around the ground.

The issue has become a glaring one for the tourists with Gerard Whateley labelling him the “weak link” of the side.

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“He was such an obvious weak link that took the pressure off whenever he came into the attack that Williamson limited him in the number of overs and then Sydney, which at the moment looks like it’s going to be a spinning deck, Australia have just added an extra spinner to the squad, it’s a big deficiency too have,” Whateley said.

Australian cricket great Mark Waugh went even harder on Santner, pointing him out as the reason why the tourists won’t win the Test.

“He’s a one-day bowler, not a Test match bowler. If you’re an orthodox bowler the one thing you’ve got to have is accuracy. yet he doesn’t have that.

“He doesn’t spin the ball a lot so you’ve got to have accuracy and he doesn’t have that. He bowls short balls, too many easy scoring balls. I think it’s a real big issue and the reason why they can’t win this Test.

“You’ve got to have a decent spinner in Australia or at least a spinner who can get wickets. At the moment he isn’t doing that and he’s not keeping it tight so I don’t know what they’ll do in Sydney, they’ll maybe have to bring in a leg-spinner because I can’t see Santner playing.”

WILLIAMSON’S BIG CALL

Kane Williamson decided to send the Aussies in.

Kane Williamson decided to send the Aussies in.Source:AAP

Kane Williamson gambled any hope New Zealand had of a shock test series upset when he made the surprise decision to send the Aussies out to face the music after winning the toss.

Williamson’s decision to bowl first divided the cricketing world and after a hard fought first session of play where Australia reached 2/67, critics were still clashing over whether the Kiwi captain had made a rare tactical blunder.

Aussie captain Tim Paine admitted he was happy to lose the toss before the start of play, confessing he had no idea whether to bat or bowl after a close inspection of the MCG deck.

“I’m pretty happy we lost the toss. I wasn’t too sure what to do,” he said.

“The wicket’s obviously a bit of an unknown.”

Williamson’s brave call certainly looked a genius move after the first over of play when Kiwi quick Trent Boult bowled an absolute seed that knocked over opener Joe Burns for a golden duck after cutting back in between the batsman’s bat and front pad.

As Australia’s first innings steadied while Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne were at the crease, however, cracks began to appear in Williamson’s big gamble.

It was the first time a team had won the toss and sent Australia in to bat on Boxing Day since 2015 — when the West Indies made the dabolical call which saw Australia declare its innings at 3/551.

For former England skipper Michael Vaughan, he is confident the top Kiwi did the right thing.

“I think it was (the correct decision) from a New Zealand perspective,” he said.

“For New Zealand to win the game, I think this is the perfect chance for them to get some early wickets. There is a little bit of swing there.

“I’m sure over the next couple of days the pitch will flatten out. It’s not done a massive amount but it has done just enough.”

NESER LEFT OUT AGAIN

Fall all the furore and discussion surrounding the potential omission of Aussie firebrand James Pattinson, Australia’s selections for the Boxing Day Test came and went with barely an eye brow raised at the MCG.

Despite early reports of Peter Siddle potentially winning a call up and Michael Neser also being considered as a radical replacement for batsman Travis Head, coach Justin Langer named a conventional side for the Second Test which featured just one change — the inclusion of Pattinson for the injured Josh Hazlewood.

Pattinson’s return to the Aussie side is just his third test since February, 2016, and his first test since this year’s Ashes in England.

SMITH BOOED AS KIWIS HIJACK BOXING DAY

Steve Smith has been booed walking out to bat by vocal New Zealand supporters revelling in their team’s first MCG Test in 32 years.

When David Warner was dismissed by a spectacular slips catch from Tim Southee, it brought the former Australian captain to the crease nearing lunch on day one of the Boxing Day Test.

As Smith walked onto the ground, boos echoed around the famous ground. Some Kiwi fans in the Olympic Stand even waved what looked like sandpaper, a reminder of Smith’s role in the infamous Cape Town cheating saga. Entering the MCG before play it was clear this was going to be a special, highly-charged Boxing Day Test.

With New Zealand playing their first Boxing Day Test since 1987, Kiwi shirts were everywhere en route to watch their No. 2 ranked team battle Australia. About 16,000 day-one tickets were snapped up weeks ago by fans living across the Tasman.

Combined with a large Kiwi expat population in Victoria, it helped ensure a blockbuster crowd and an electric atmosphere.

It didn’t take them long to find their voice as they were immediately rewarded for their long wait between MCG Tests with a memorable start. Captain Kane Williamson’s decision to bowl first after winning the toss reaped rewards in the first over, when Trent Boult knocked over Australian opener Joe Burns four balls in.

With more than 50,000 fans already packed into the MCG, Kiwi fans roared as one when Burns’ stumps were rattled by the returning quick’s perfect inswinging delivery.

— with AAP

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