New Zealand v Zimbabwe, 1st Test, Napier, 1st day January 26, 2012

New Zealand 'just ahead' - Taylor

ESPNcricinfo staff

New Zealand are "just ahead" of Zimbabwe at the end of the first day in Napier and will target a total of around 450, according to their captain Ross Taylor. On a pitch expected to offer assistance to the seamers, New Zealand lost only five wickets, building slowly at the start and then accumulating well to finish the day on 331.

"It's a pretty fast-scoring outfield and they [Zimbabwe] set some defensive fields. We'll need to see through the new ball tomorrow morning, and if we are still batting after lunch, we'll be around that 400-450 mark," Ross Taylor, the New Zealand captain, said. "A score of 450 will probably not be enough [to bat once]. We'll have to bowl them out for under 250 then."

Partnerships were crucial to New Zealand's progress in the first two sessions. Martin Guptill and Brendon McCullum put on 124 for the first wicket, New Zealand's first century opening stand since November 2010. They set the tone for careful batting on a pitch McCullum said had a "bit of stickiness" early on. "We were pretty happy to get through that first session unscathed."

Zimbabwe hit back after tea with the quick wickets of McCullum and Dean Brownlie, leaving New Zealand on 196 for 4. "I was pretty devastated to get out when I did," McCullum said. "I had done all the hard work and I needed to start again after tea. I just got a bit lazy on one ball and got found out"

Taylor, however, ensured New Zealand did not slip too far by scoring an unbeaten century. It was his maiden hundred as Test captain and the first since March 2010. "Every captain wants to lead from the front and I want to score hundreds," he said. "I've scored a lot of 50s and my conversion rate hasn't been great." Since taking over the leadership from Daniel Vettori, Taylor scored three half-centuries, two against Zimbabwe and one against Australia, before this innings.

"On New Zealand wickets and even on Australian wickets, I find that if I am driving early on, I get myself into trouble," Taylor said. "I tried to get myself in on the first 20 or 30 balls, and play off the back foot and cut as much as possible, and leave the driving until it was really full."

With Zimbabwe's attack lacking an element of incisiveness, Taylor was allowed time to settle and build. His innings, and that of McCullum's, helped ease concerns over New Zealand's shift from the 20-over HRV Cup to Test cricket. "It certainly eased a few nerves about the change of pace from the 20-over game," McCullum said. "It certainly wasn't all glitz and glamour in the first couple of sessions but I thought we got the rewards in that last session."

Vettori's quick 46-ball 38 "took the game away from Zimbabwe," according to Taylor. Still, he did not believe Zimbabwe bowled badly and said New Zealand could do worse than follow Shingi Masakadza's strategy of bowling on the McLean Park pitch. "He was the most consistent bowler out of their line-up. He bowled the right length on that wicket. If we can follow his lead, but just bring the line in closer to off stump or fourth stump, that will be the way to go."

With Taylor saying day three will probably be the best for batting, Zimbabwe need not despair yet. Taylor, however, said the balance could shift New Zealand's way early on day two. "If we can string a good hour or two tomorrow, the game will be in our favour."