|New Zealand look to be on course for a big first innings score in Bulawayo [AFP]|
Opener Martin Guptill made 109 and captain Ross Taylor 76 not out as New Zealand moved to 275-3 at stumps on the first day of the one-off Test against Zimbabwe on Tuesday.
Guptill hit 11 fours and two sixes in his second Test century, sharing partnerships of 75 with Kane Williamson (49) and 132 with Taylor before he fell to part-time bowler Hamilton Masakadza toward the end of the final session.
Taylor stroked nine fours as the Black Caps took control on a placid pitch ideal for batting at Queens Sports Club.
Kyle Jarvis took 1-53 and removed Brendon McCullum for Zimbabwe’s initial breakthrough before Guptill, Williamson and Taylor put the tourists in a strong early position.
Masakadza had 1-13 and Ray Price ran out Williamson one short of his half-century, but Zimbabwe’s attack laboured on a track which offered little help and set New Zealand on course for an imposing first-innings score in their quest for a first Test win since beating Bangladesh at home in February 2010.
The Black Caps have lost their last three series – against Pakistan, India and Australia – without winning a match.
Guptill anchored New Zealand’s effort in the southern city of Bulawayo, facing 236 balls and nearly batting through the opening day. He punished the home bowlers whenever they gave him width, but fell eight overs from stumps when he misdirected a short ball straight to Tatenda Taibu at mid-wicket.
“It was nice spending some time in the middle and to get some runs,” said Guptill.
“The wicket was playing well, although a few balls kept low. I was disappointed to get out to a long-hop but still happy I got 100. Anything above 500 is a good lead.”
Taylor and BJ Watling (16 not out) added just 28 more runs as the New Zealanders saw out the day, although both survived late chances. Taylor was dropped on 68 and Watling was put down in the slips by Price off Jarvis.
New Zealand were missing allrounder Jesse Ryder and seamer Kyle Mills through injury, and handed debuts to Dean Brownlie and allrounder Doug Bracewell in their place.
|First day scorecard|
New Zealand 1st Innings
M Guptill c Taibu b Masakadza 109
Still to bat: Dean Brownlie, Daniel Vettori, Reece Young, Doug Bracewell,
Former skipper Daniel Vettori was back in the team for the first time since the World Cup, alongside wicketkeeper Reece Young, offspinner Jeetan Patel and seamer Chris Martin, who also came into the Test team after New Zealand’s victories in the Twenty20 and one-day series.
McCullum sought to be aggressive up front, hitting two early fours in his 14 from 27 balls before he edged onto his stumps trying a pull shot off Jarvis to leave New Zealand on 40-1 in the 11th over.
Guptill and Williamson rebuilt the innings, with Williamson stroking six boundaries before his strange run out – where he failed to react quick enough to a return from bowler Price to debutant wicketkeeper Regis Chakabva when seemingly in no danger.
Guptill and Taylor restored the momentum, and Guptill moved to 99 with a powerful six over long-off, then passed 100 next ball with a pull to square-leg.
Having been relatively untroubled, the right-hander slipped up two overs later by hitting another pull straight to Taibu.
But Masakadza’s break was one of few high points for Zimbabwe’s bowlers, as Njabulo Ncube had 0-50 on his debut and failed to put the batsmen under any prolonged pressure alongside spinner Price (0-75) and seamer Chris Mpofu (0-68).
Zimbabwe were also missing two important players for their third Test since returning to the five-day format this year after a six-year absence.
Left-arm seamer Brian Vitori and allrounder Elton Chigumbura were out injured, while Chakabva kept wicket in place of regular ‘keeper Taibu who could not stand behind the stumps because of a finger injury.
Allrounder Malcolm Waller was selected for his Test debut for the home team alongside Chakabva and Ncube but had little chance to make an impact, taking 0-8 off three overs.