'What a player': Aussie batsman claims special slice of history

New year, same old Marnus Labuschagne.

After finishing 2019 as the leading run-scorer in Test cricket (1104 runs), the classy Australian first drop began 2020 in similar fashion.

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Labuschagne made the most of a depleted New Zealand side to stick the boot into the hapless tourists on day one of the third Test at the SCG.

With Kane Williamson one of five New Zealanders forced out through injury or illness, the Black Caps endured a difficult opening day.

Compounding their misery was 'Mr Consistency' himself Labuschagne, who made it four centuries this summer with another outstanding knock on Friday.

Marnus Labuschagne celebrates another half century on day one of the third Test at the SCG. Pic: Getty

The 25-year-old has now notched at least a half century in six innings out of his last seven this summer.

Labuschagne went into the New Year's Test having already locked in scores of 185, 162 and 143 in his breakthrough summer, with his only total below 50 being when he was run out for 19 in the second innings in Melbourne.

He has looked particularly comfortably against newly-picked spinners Will Somerville and Todd Astle, lifting the former into the member's stand for six just before tea.

Labuschagne survived a mini scare in the eighties when he slashed at one outside the off stump that flew through a gap in the slips cordon.

He then almost edged one behind on 99 runs, before settling the nerves in the next over by glancing one down to the leg side boundary to claim the first international century of the new decade.

Labuschagne was measured in an opening session where the Black Caps only had the wicket of opener Joe Burns (18 runs) to show for their toil.

David Warner made it to 45 by the lunch break but became the second Aussie batsman to fall just after the break when he was caught out off a Neil Wagner short ball.

Steve Smith came to the crease alongside Labuschagne but took a career-low 39 balls to get off the mark before finally settling in to the partnership with his good friend.

Labuschagne was happy to take the scoring initiative and continued his remarkable run of form, with his fifty coming just after the lunch break.

Labuschagne went to stumps unbeaten on 130, with Australia ramming home their advantage after having already wrapped up the series last week at the MCG.

The right-hander's Test batting average now stands at 62.61, the third highest in Test history.

Smith also made 63, batting patiently before his pursuit of his first hundred for the summer was ended when he edged Colin de Grandhomme to first slip.

The pair - dubbed as the new bromance of the Australian side - combined for a 156-run third-wicket partnership, their highest while batting together.

Matthew Wade then hit a quick-fire 22no from 30 balls before stumps in front of a crowd of 36,420.

Tom Latham became New Zealand's 30th Test captain before he lost the toss and was made to field first, while Glenn Phillips is making his debut.

Illness ravages depleted Kiwis

Phillips was rushed from Auckland to Sydney on Thursday afternoon as cover, after playing a domestic Twenty20 match on Wednesday night.

Henry Nicholls is also missing through the same illness, while spinner Mitchell Santner's nightmare tour has also been ended with the flu-like virus.

Tim Southee was also overlooked on workload concerns, although bizarrely featured in the field after 12 overs.

Fellow quick Trent Boult is already back home in New Zealand after breaking his hand in Melbourne.

It meant allrounder de Grandhomme had to open the bowling alongside the returning Matt Henry, while spinners Todd Astle and Will Somerville have also been called in.

Out-of-form batsman Jeet Raval is New Zealand's other addition, brought in to bat at No.3 after averaging 7.3 in his past nine innings.

Australia earlier resisted the urge to blood spinner Mitchell Swepson on a wicket expected to turn.

A win in Sydney will mark their first clean sweep of a home Test summer since 2013-14 and their 10th overall.

With AAP