Taylor and McCullum guide New Zealand
New Zealand 331 for 5 (Taylor 111*, McCullum 83) v Zimbabwe
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Ross Taylor reached an unbeaten sixth Test hundred just before stumps on day one to put New Zealand in command in the Test against Zimbabwe in Napier. Having been inserted on an unusually green Mclean Park deck, New Zealand collected 331 largely trouble-free runs for the loss of five wickets, with half-centuries to Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill helping set up a strong total.
Ross Taylor will rarely make an easier ton, as the Zimbabwe bowlers struggled to put him under pressure throughout his composed stay. The seamers were already on the wane when he arrived at the crease at 131 for two, offering boundary balls with alarming regularity while legspinner Graeme Cremer battled to find his length throughout the day. While Ross Taylor was quick to punish the abundant bad deliveries, he also accumulated at will when his opposite Brendan Taylor employed defensive fields too early and for too long.
Ross Taylor reserved bursts of characteristic belligerence for genuinely bad bowling, like Cremer's over of long hops that disappeared for 17, choosing to build rather than blast, even as the Zimbabwe attack became more lackadaisical as the day wore on. He reached his hundred in 154 deliveries and finished the day on 111 not out, alongside New Zealand's latest wicketkeeper-batsman, BJ Watling, who was unbeaten on 15.
Two short patches of joy were all Zimbabwe gleaned from a day of toil in sun-beaten Napier, as they failed to convert New Zealand's stutters into definitive momentum shifts. Guptill and Kane Williamson fell in quick succession following an unflustered 124-run opening stand, but indifferent bowling and Brendan Taylor's reluctance to tighten the noose with close fielders allowed McCullum and Ross Taylor to continue building at their leisure.
McCullum's dismissal after tea and Dean Brownlie's grope at an away-seamer shortly after provided Zimbabwe with another window in which to probe for the initiative. But the seam attack wilted once more, and Ross Taylor combined New Zealand's resident collapse-thwarter, Daniel Vettori, to restore the hosts' dominance, and kick scoring back into gear.
Vettori was eventually dismissed for a busy 38, dragged out of his crease by a Cremer googly for just long enough for Tatenda Taibu to jerk off the bails, but Ross Taylor and Watling were virtually untested as they helped their side through to the close, blunting the worst of the second new ball to have New Zealand eyeing 500.
Playing their first away Test since the Centurion in March 2005, Zimbabwe's seamers failed to exploit favourable early conditions, before the notoriously placid McLean Park surface returned to the familiar. Kyle Jarvis beat McCullum's outside edge repeatedly in his first two overs of the day, but two wallops over cover and a glance to fine leg ignited McCullum's innings as Guptill eased into the match with a spate of purring strokes into the on-side. Guptill was the more fluent of the pair as they transferred their domestic Twenty20 form into the first morning of the Test, motoring to 52 in 9.4 overs, before easing off somewhat after the first hour.
Swing was neither prodigious, nor the pace unsettling from Jarvis and new-ball partner Brian Vitori, who at times went searching for ambitious outswing on leg-stump only to be picked through the on-side methodically by Guptill in particular. Debutant Shingi Masakadza's introduction into the attack helped haul in a New Zealand run rate that at times touched 5.5 runs an over, as Masakadza persevered outside off stump, nibbling the odd delivery away from the right-handers.
McCullum and Guptill both reached their fifties soon after lunch, with the latter content with well-placed twos and threes while McCullum punctured the ring with more intent. But Masakadza was soon rewarded for with Guptill's scalp - albeit against the run of play - and Zimbabwe soon surged towards equality when McCullum abandoned thoughts of a single, and an unwitting Williamson, who had almost reached the non-striker's end before realising McCullum had headed back to his crease after initially setting off.
McCullum was dismissed in sight of a century, following a period of consolidation alongside Ross Taylor, and Brownlie made no use of a reprieve in the slips off Jarvis, surrendering to Masakadza in the following over. But Ross Taylor, with assistance from Vettori and Watling, completed a successful first day of New Zealand's home summer, and will aim to transform his side's first innings total from commanding to colossal on day two.