NZ v SL, 1st Test, Dunedin, 1st day December 10, 2015

Respect thy opponent, to all parts

After three undefeated seasons at home, New Zealand's mode of operation is clear: talk up the visiting teams and then set about traumatising them

New Zealand hit 60 boundaries on the first day of the Dunedin Test, and advanced at a run rate of 4.53 © Getty Images

Prior to this match Brendon McCullum spent almost as much time complimenting the opposition as he did endorsing his own, recently-defeated team. New Zealand are familiar with Rangana Herath's calibre, of course, but McCullum made particular mention of Sri Lanka's "world-class" batsmen, and their "underrated" seam attack. "They've gone through a lot of changes," McCullum surmised. "But we're respectful of the challenge these guys will put to us."

These are interesting comments to have made in light of his own innings, and New Zealand's general progress, on day one.

In a 57-ball knock that sent the hosts hurtling past 300, McCullum respected Sri Lanka to all parts of University Oval. He began by respecting Nuwan Pradeep for three consecutive fours after just 11 previous balls at the crease, then, later on, raced at Sri Lanka's quickest bowler to launch him high over cover for a six forged from deep, abiding, money-can't-buy respect.

Overall, 60 Sri Lanka deliveries were hit to the boundary in the day. New Zealand advanced at a run rate of 4.53. And all batsmen who crossed 25 had a strike rate of 65 - the captain's was 131.

McCullum's comments were probably meant in earnest, because on the surface at least, New Zealand have made a point of treating opponents well over the last two years. It is part of the reason they have begun to be so admired across the world. But now touring the country for the second time in 12 months, Sri Lanka may feel they have just about had it. They may be sick to death of McCullum's particular brand of respect.

It had been the same when they were here last year. That series had also been preceded by glowing appraisals as several New Zealand players invoked Sri Lanka's recent Test series win in England. When Kumar Sangakkara struck a double-hundred at the Basin Reserve in January, the hosts spoke so effusively about the batsman it sounded like they all wanted to take turns cuddling him. Then on the field, New Zealand took catches that verged on the supernatural, hit rapid, monumental innings, and swung the ball viciously in both directions, and judging by the reactions of the batsmen, through undiscovered spatial planes.

After three undefeated seasons at home now, this seems to be New Zealand's mode of operation in the country. They talk up the visiting teams, then set about traumatising them.

Things just appear to start clicking for them on home soil. McCullum's 71 was a sort of return to runs, after an Australia series in which he averaged 27.4. He wasn't the only batsman to regain confidence on Thursday. Martin Guptill had had an even worse tour across the Tasman, but was at ease almost from the outset in Dunedin. He began with a series of serene drives on a green-tinged surface, then moved to more bruising square blows. When he was finally caught behind in the 85th over, he had 156 from 234 deliveries.

At times it felt like this whole Test-match day was staged just to get Guptill back into form. Virtually everyone on the field was complicit in his twin lbw escapes on 78. Bowler Dushmantha Chameera was half-hearted in appeal when Guptill was first struck in line, in the 38th over. The umpire quickly turned that appeal down, then shook his head at another shout next over. Sri Lanka should have reviewed that second decision, but it was Guptill and New Zealand's day. Angelo Mathews, in consultation with the bowler and fielders behind the wicket, opted not to pursue it. The hosts' second-wicket partnership would grow to 173.

Chameera bowled with good pace - at times reaching 146 kph - but didn't get his first wicket until the second new ball was nearly due. By then New Zealand's total was already more than 350. Sri Lanka claimed five wickets for 65 in a 14-over stretch towards stumps, but with the inexperience in their top order on this tour, New Zealand's 409 for 8 already feels like 60 runs too many.

What's more, even the pitch appeared to be colluding with the home team. There wasn't a lot of bounce in the morning session, but plenty of zip was visible towards the close. "Towards the end of the day, when the pitch was drying out, the ball started doing funny things," Guptill said. "So that's good signs for us when we start bowling."

Sri Lanka will hope that despite a tough first day, this tour ends more happily than their last visit to this corner of the world. On that occasion New Zealand mauled Sri Lanka in the Tests, then dragged their carcass around the country during the ODI series, all the while suggesting the visitors were a dangerous side.

New Zealand are widely described as the nice guys of world cricket. It's just that on days like this, Sri Lanka may wish they were off being nice to someone bloody else.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

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