• Reuters

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Australia’s pacemen struck twice to leave New Zealand vulnerable at 44 for two on the second day of the Boxing Day test after Travis Head scored a sparkling century to put the hosts firmly in command.

Tom Latham was nine not out with Ross Taylor on two, and New Zealand facing a mountain to climb to reel in Australia’s first innings total of 467.

The tourists’ opening woes continued, with Jeet Raval’s replacement Tom Blundell out for 15 edging a Pat Cummins delivery to wicketkeeper/captain Tim Paine.

The huge contingent of New Zealand fans in a crowd of 60,000 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground were soon groaning again when captain Kane Williamson top-edged a pull-shot to be caught by Paine for nine.

Under pressure to cement his place in Australia’s middle order, South Australian scrapper Head completed his second test ton after tea and celebrated with emotion on a sun-drenched afternoon.

He was eventually dismissed for 114, smashing spin-bowling all-rounder Mitchell Santner straight to cover when looking for quick runs late in Australia’s innings.

Head scored 56 in his first innings in the series opener in Perth but was disappointed to give up his wicket with a loose drive off paceman Tim Southee.

“Last week I threw it away a little bit and then was really disappointed with that,” he said. “So it’s nice (to) get another opportunity.”

Head combined with captain Tim Paine in a 150-run partnership that all but crushed New Zealand’s hopes of forging a series-levelling victory after their 296-run loss in the pink ball test in Perth.

Their sixth-wicket stand was ended soon after tea when the tireless Neil Wagner trapped Paine lbw for 79, denying the Tasmanian skipper a maiden test hundred.

Kane Williamson’s bowlers mopped up the tail for the cost of only 34 runs but the damage was already done.

New Zealand managed only one wicket from the first two sessions on Friday, placing Williamson’s decision to send Australia in to bat upon winning the toss under an even harsher light.

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