Taylor's century soothes nerves
By Nelson Clare in Brisbane
MARK TAYLOR vindicated the Australian selectors' decision to retain him as captain by producing his best performance on home soil in two years to prevent New Zealand claiming an early advantage on the first day of the first Test in Brisbane.
Taylor, under pressure as captain despite retaining the Ashes two months ago in England, lifted his side from a perilous 52 for four at lunch to 269 for six at the close.
``It's the best I've batted in a Test match since my 123 in Hobart against Pakistan [in 1995],'' claimed Taylor, who hit 112 in 312 minutes.
The 33-year-old captain anchored the Australian innings after New Zealand put the home side in and capitalised on a moist, unprepared pitch.
Nottinghamshire all-rounder Chris Cairns dismissed Matthew Elliott (18), Greg Blewett (7), Mark Waugh (3) and Steve Waugh (2) in the morning session.
But the next two sessions belonged to Australia as Taylor partnered Ricky Ponting (26) and wicketkeeper Ian Healy in healthy partnerships to resist the Kiwi challenge.
Taylor and Ponting forged a 56-run sixth-wicket partnership and the captain found a willing ally in Healy, with whom he added 117 before Taylor was out 45 minutes before stumps, having hit 10 boundaries.
Healy, playing in his 95th Test, was dropped twice by Young on 27 and 42 before reaching his 19th Test half-century and finished unbeaten on 62. Paul Reiffel reached the close on 23.
Cairns tired and finished the first day with four for 65.
No Day 2 Report
Day 3 Report - Electronic Telegraph
Australians are forced to toil
By Nelson Clare at Brisbane
STEPHEN Fleming missed his second Test century by nine runs as New Zealand reached a position of parity on the third day of the first Test against Australia at Brisbane yesterday.
Fleming, the captain, was lbw for a gritty 91 in the morning after almost 4.75 hours at the crease and, with Chris Cairns following up his four wickets with a composed innings of 64, New Zealand steadily chipped away at Australia's total of 373. Four batsmen scored fifties on an easy-paced pitch.
Australia ended the day 49 runs ahead with one wicket down in their second innings. The batsman out was Mark Taylor, the century-maker in the first innings.
Fleming and Cairns complemented good contributions by opener Blair Pocock, with 57, and Craig McMillan on his Test debut.
McMillan smashed a six over Shane Warne's head to bring up his fifty before he fell lbw to a faster delivery from the leg-spinner for 54 off 104 balls.
New Zealand looked like succeeding in their attempt to improve a miserable tour record, which began with two innings defeats against state teams. Australia were made to struggle with the bat and toil with the ball.
Fleming, after coming in at 36 for two, probably deserved to add to his 129 against England in Auckland last January.
McMillan, aged 21, was impressive, displaying sound footwork, and Cairns continued his improvement, batting for just under three hours before he played on to Glenn McGrath.
Nightwatchman Daniel Vettori resisted for an hour before becoming the first New Zealand wicket to fall, caught splendidly in the gully by a leaping Steve Waugh.
Warne, who had a great tussle with Fleming, McMillan and Cairns, finished with four wickets for 106 off 42 overs. He got some turn late in the New Zealand innings, particularly in the dismissal of Adam Parore.
He had Parore edging a leg-break to first slip where the alert Taylor dived low to his left for his third catch of the innings and his 126th in 88 Tests.
Warne bowled Chris Harris out of the rough to bring his total of Test wickets to 268. He could flourish on the last day if the Gabba pitch begins to take turn.
Australia were left with a first innings lead of only 24, and in the evening Taylor, who scored a disciplined 112 in the first innings, was tempted by Cairns into a rash stroke to Nathan Astle in the gully.
On Saturday afternoon New Zealand frustrated a hostile new-ball attack before they suffered a bad run-out when Pocock and Astle found themselves stranded at the striker's end, Warne whipping off the bails at the bowler's end.
In the morning Paul Reiffel had taken his overnight score to 77, his fourth Test fifty and highest, as Australia added a further 104 runs before being dismissed.
Healy, having been dropped three times, including the first ball of Saturday, eventually played on for 68.
Healy added 69 for the seventh wicket with Reiffel, a partnership that loosened New Zealand's unexpectedly firm grip on the match.
Day 4 Report - Electronic Telegraph
Ponting's 73 seizes initiative
By Nelson Clare in Brisbane
RICKY PONTING gave Australia the advantage in the first Test against New Zealand with a forceful 73 not out at the right moment at the Gabba yesterday.
Ponting dominated a quick-fire, 77-run stand with Paul Reiffel before the declaration came at 294 for six, leaving New Zealand 319 to win in a minimum of 93 overs.
Greg Blewett top-scored with 91, but it was Ponting's hard hitting that gave Mark Taylor the opportunity to leave the final day clear for his bowlers.
Local history looked very much against a New Zealand victory, with no country scoring more than 236 in the fourth innings to win a Test at Brisbane.
Until Reiffel joined Ponting at the fall of Blewett's wicket, the tenacious New Zealanders had pegged away in the field, forcing Australia to bat ponderously building on their small first-innings lead.
Seam bowler Chris Cairns and left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori checked Australia's progress by reducing them to 163 for five. Blewett held the innings together before he fell to a brilliant first-slip catch by Stephen Fleming, the New Zealand captain's fourth catch of the innings for a match tally of six.
New Zealand dismissed the dangerous Waugh twins in the post-lunch session. Mark departed when a ball deflected off his pad and glove to silly mid-off, and Steve was caught behind from a loose cut shot.
They followed the first session dismissals of Matthew Elliott and Ian Healy after Australia resumed the day on 25 for one.
Ponting cut loose soon after a message from the dressing-room, scoring his runs off 84 balls with seven fours and two sixes.
Vettori proved a thorn in Australia's side with a sustained spell, claiming two wickets for 87 in 36 overs.
All-rounder Cairns added three second-innings wickets to his first-innings four. His 64 with the bat underlined his value.
Day 5 report
McGrath suffers for his success
By Nelson Clare in Brisbane
GLENN McGRATH and Shane Warne, England's tormentors for much of the summer, took eight wickets between them to bowl Australia to a 186-run victory over New Zealand in the first Test.
McGrath took four wickets in 22 balls as New Zealand were all out for 132, chasing 319 on the last day to win. In doing so, however, the fast bowler aggravated a groin injury and is doubtful for the second of the three-Test series, in Perth.
New Zealand, four for no wicket overnight, lost Blair Pocock to the first ball of the day and struggled to 69 for five at lunch. Adam Parore and Chris Cairns offered some resistance after lunch but then five wickets went for 20 runs, three of them to Warne.
The head groundsman at the WACA ground in Perth resigned yesterday, prompting fears for the pitch to be used in the second Test, which starts on Nov 20.
David Crane has quit his post suddenly, apparently frustrated by trying to produce a quality pitch on a surface ravaged by rugby league and Australian Rules football during the winter.