Skipper's innings boosts NZ   26 Jan 2012

Lynn McConnell

Ross Taylor's sixth Test century for New Zealand, and his first as captain, gave the honours to his side on the first day of their one-off Test with Zimbabwe at McLean Park in Napier on Thursday.

Taylor demonstrated all his class and experience on his home pitch in reaching 100 with a superb straight drive to complete 187 minutes of batting having faced 154 balls. He hit 12 fours and two sixes as New Zealand went to stumps on 331-5 with Taylor 111 not out and BJ Watling 15 not out - not a bad return after being asked to bat first when conditions were expected to favour the bowlers.

Once again the greater grass cover flattered to deceive at the ground, and while there were some hiccups in application more than anything else, New Zealand finished the day strongly placed.

Zimbabwe's bowlers toiled throughout the day and could feel pleased with their effort overall. They had occasional loose spells, which was hardly surprising given the high temperatures, but generally recovered.

Leg-spinner Graeme Cremer took some fearful punishment from Taylor especially, came back to claim Daniel Vettori's wicket with a wrong 'un which caught Vettori struggling to regain his ground. It was a tough day for Cremer for all that and he ended with 1-78 from 16 overs.

Vettori had batted typically rattling boundaries almost from the outset of his stay, where he picked off boundaries from his namesake Brian Vitori to get a rollicking start to his innings. At one stage he had 35 from 28 balls. Taylor and Vettori brought up their 50-run stand from 43 balls in 34 minutes and when Vettori was stumped, they had added 82 runs with Vettori hitting 38 from 46 balls in 71 minutes.

At one stage Taylor's innings appeared to slip into a supporting role but when Cremer came back in, Taylor was vicious, pulling a six and four from successive balls and then three runs later he added a second six for good measure.

Having lost Vettori, Taylor, and incoming batsman BJ Watling, who started his Test career as an opener, turned his attention to Hamilton Masakadza who had been most economical.

But if there was one member of the visiting attack who troubled the batsmen throughout his spells, it was right-arm medium-fast bowler Kyle Jarvis. Playing only his fourth Test he deserved better figures than his 1-56 from 22 overs. He claimed Brendan McCullum's wicket, trapped lbw for 83.

Earlier, in the morning session, Jarvis several times caused McCullum to mis-time his shots, playing too early at balls which caught edges and flew just beyond fielders.

McCullum and Martin Guptill gave New Zealand a promising start and achieved their second century opening stand in Tests just after the lunch break. Guptill got a rising ball from Shingi Masakadza and edged to wicketkeeper Taitenda Taibu. He scored 51, his seventh Test half-century in a stand that ended on 124.

Then within four overs Kane Williamson had gone, the victim of poor running. He played the ball into the covers, called for the single and set off only to find McCullum had quickly turned back leaving Williamson to try and scurry back to his ground by the length of the pitch.

New Zealand were 131-2 at that stage having lost two wickets for seven runs.

The pitch had few of the imagined terrors that were being talked about ahead of the game although there was significantly more bounce and carry than is usual for the ground. However, the anticipated sideways movement was not apparent after the new ball lost its shine.

Zimbabwe's options were also weakened with the withdrawal of veteran left-arm spinner Ray Price who was suffering from a groin injury. Graeme Cremer, a leg-spinner was included in his place.


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