|Two early wickets fell for Australia but Ricky Ponting was on hand to balance the ship [GALLO/GETTY]
Ricky Ponting guided Australia to 154-3 after Daniel Vettori's disciplined innings lifted New Zealand to 295 on Friday as two ex-captains pushed for runs on day two of the first cricket Test.
Ponting was unbeaten on 67 and Michael Clarke, his successor as Australia skipper, was not out 28 in an unbroken 63-run partnership when deteriorating light halted play early for a second day. Both batsmen survived close calls just before stumps.
Ponting and Vettori both stood down as national captains after the World Cup ended in April, but opted to keep playing Test cricket. Clarke is leading Australia in his first home series as skipper, while Ross Taylor is playing his second Test as New Zealand captain.
New Zealand resumed Friday at 176-5 and moved to 254 before a moment of madness cost Vettori his maiden Test hundred against old foe Australia. He was run out attempting a quick single for 96 by Mike Hussey's direct hit from
"The batting was getting easier and easier so to be dismissed in that manner was pretty disappointing"
Out for 96, Daniel Vettori
His dismissal ended an innings reviving 156-run sixth-wicket stand with Perth-born Dean Brownlie, who finished unbeaten on 77 after being dropped twice on 3, and gave the momentum back to Australia.
Vettori had shown the kind of application that was missing from the top order, which crumbled to 96-5 after losing five wickets for 52 due to some rash shots by established batsmen.
Vettori deserved a hundred in his 19th Test against Australia but had to settle for his fourth half century and highest score against his archrivals.
"The batting was getting easier and easier so to be dismissed in that manner was pretty disappointing," Vettori said.
"I thought Dean and I could have batted for a long time but you have to deal with it. It took a direct hit. If it wasn't a direct hit, I would have been in and he's a very good fielder. I picked the wrong guy."
His only reprieve came from a fielding mixup after he top-edged an attempted sweep when he was on 71 and skied a chance into the outfield, where Mitchell Starc looked up to see if fellow rookie David Warner wanted the catch before the ball dropped in front of him.
Vettori faced 126 balls and hit 10 boundaries in a three-hour innings before falling just four runs short of his seventh Test hundred.
The last five New Zealand wickets fell for 41 with spinner Nathan Lyons polishing off the tailenders to return 4-69 from 21.5 overs. Peter Siddle took 2-57 and Starc's figures blew out to 2-90.
"We all know there's a lot of hard work to do, especially in that first hour tomorrow morning," Lyons said.
In a dramatic seven balls between the end of New Zealand's innings and lunch, off-spinner Vettori opened the bowling and Warner scored three runs before he tried to pull away from a rising ball and gloved a catch off Tim Southee's first delivery to wicketkeeper Reece Young.
The Australians were in further trouble when Phillip Hughes (10) was out in the seventh over, again misjudging a ball outside off stump and angling a low catch to a diving Martin Guptill at gully off Chris Martin's bowling.
Ponting joined Usman Khawaja with the score at 25-2 and the pair added 66 runs in a steadying third-wicket stand to lift the total to 91-2 at tea. But the partnership ended immediately after the break, with Khawaja run out for 38 when he was slow to back up for a single on the first ball of the session.
Doug Bracewell thought he had his first Australian scalp, and a prime one, when Clarke chopped onto his stumps trying to pull the bat away from a wideish delivery with the total at 140-3. Clarke started walking back to the pavilion before the umpires called for a review for no-ball, and TV replays confirmed the 21-year-old Bracewell had overstepped, allowing Clarke to resume his innings at 23 in a valuable reprieve for Australia.
Ponting had a life on 63 in the very next over when he was wrapped above the knee roll on the front pad from slow part-timer Brownlie. New Zealand challenged the initial not out call, but replays weren't conclusive enough to give Ponting out.
Southee returned the best figures for New Zealand with 1-31 from 12 overs, and Martin finished with 1-38 when players walked off at 4:38 p.m. with 18 scheduled overs remaining.
Only 51 overs were possible on the opening day when bad light and then rain wiped out the last session.