Hobart: Australia moved into a commanding position chasing 241 to win the second Test against New Zealand, with under-fire openers David Warner and Phillip Hughes sharing an unbroken 72-run stand on Sunday before rain forced an early close to the third day.
New Zealand were dismissed for 226 moments before lunch — an overall lead of 240 — leaving Australia eight sessions to score the runs required to clinch a 2-0 series win.
Warner struck eight boundaries and faced just 50 balls for his unbeaten 47, while Hughes overcame some early nerves to remain not out 20 at the tea interval. The entire evening session was washed out due to rain.
Australia has never lost a Test at Bellerive and is in a strong position to get the remaining 169 runs needed for victory.
Hughes who needs a big innings to salvage his Test career after a series of batting failures in South Africa last month and against New Zealand survived a loud appeal for caught behind in the third over before he'd scored, but umpires ruled it not out.
The strong start by the openers came after Australia's bowlers had put the hosts back in control of the Test match by dominating the first session, taking the final seven wickets for the addition of only 87 runs.
James Pattinson (3-54) and Peter Siddle (3-66) took three wickets each with good, sustained pace bowling, while offspinner Nathan Lyon picked up 3-25 as the New Zealand lower order crumbled, with the last four wickets falling in six overs.
Siddle started the rot, breaking a 66-run fourth-wicket partnership when he had Kane Williamson (34) caught at second slip by Ricky Ponting on the third ball of the morning with no addition to the overnight total.
New Zealand skipper Ross Taylor (56) and Dean Brownlie (21) added 32 for the fifth wicket before Pattinson struck twice in back-to-back overs. Taylor, who was dropped on 14 and again on 48 — when Pattinson put down a sharp return chance — was finally out edging the 21-year-old paceman to Michael Clarke at slip.
Brownlie, who had been hit on the wrist by a sharply-rising bouncer from Mitchell Starc an over before, gloved a simple caught behind to Brad Haddin while trying to evade another short-pitched ball from Pattinson.
Siddle returned just before the scheduled lunch interval to trap Reece Young (9) lbw and trigger the late collapse. After getting clobbered for a six and four off consecutive balls from Tim Southee, Lyon took two wickets in three balls as New Zealand slipped to 203-9.
Southee hit 13 from five deliveries before he holed out to Mike Hussey at long on. Lyon bowled Doug Bracewell (4) and then took the last wicket when Trent Boult, who struck 21 from 13 balls, was caught in the outfield by Hussey.
New Zealand took a surprising 14-run first-innings lead after dismissing Australia for 136 on Saturday, when a green wicket and overcast conditions provided perfect conditions for the seam bowlers similar to the opening day when the New Zealand batsmen struggled against pace and swing.
The wicket had settled down by Sunday and New Zealand appeared set to build a decent lead before Taylor tried to drive at a full-length ball from Pattinson and got a thick edge to Clarke. His first half century of the series got the visitors out of trouble on the second day but he was unable to occupy the crease when New Zealand needed him most.
Perth-born Brownlie had defied the Australian attack while wickets fell around him in his first three innings this series, scoring an unbeaten 77 and 42 in the nine-wicket loss at Brisbane last week and 56 on Friday, but his dismissal exposed a long New Zealand tail.
New Zealand hasn't won a Test match in Australia since 1985 and are coming off a big defeat in the series-opening match last week.
Australia has never lost in nine Test matches at Bellerive Oval — with seven wins and two draws. Both draws were against New Zealand.