DUNEDIN (New Zealand): Martin Guptill and Brendon McCullum produced big innings at the right time to lift New Zealand to 409-8 at stumps Thursday on the opening day of the first cricket test against Sri Lanka.
Guptill's 156 — his third test century and his first in 40 innings — may have come just in time to save his place in the New Zealand test lineup after a run of low scores raised calls for his removal.
McCullum, who made 75 from 57 balls including a half century from 33 deliveries — produced the batting fireworks fans hoped for to celebrate the first innings of what will likely be his last test on his home ground.
Their innings almost overshadowed an 88 from the prolific Kane Williams, who shared a record 173-run stand with Guptill for the second wicket to put New Zealand in control after Sri Lanka had won what seemed an important toss.
With Guptill and McCullum, Williamson combined to give New Zealand total command of the first day at the University Oval.
New Zealands Brendon McCullum hooks a ball against Sri Lanka on day one of the first Test at the University Cricket Oval in Dunedin, New Zealand, on Thursday. (AP)
Guptill and Tom Latham (22) put on 56 for the first wicket in a sober opening stand as the touring bowlers missed their lengths at the start of the New Zealand innings.
Guptill reached his half century from 74 balls with his 11th boundary to complete a century from 147 balls which included 17 fours.
"It wasn't easy early on. It was pretty green and there was a little bit of movement," Guptill said. "You'd always take 400 in a day.
"We're eight down and you'd always like to be a couple of less wickets down but that'scricket," he added. "We're in a great position to set the test match up."
Williamson seemed headed toward his fifth century in 12 innings when he played an uncharacteristically loose shot off Nuwan Pradeep two balls short of lunch.
Pradeep trapped Ross Taylor lbw for 8 immediately after lunch as the Sri Lanka bowlers threatened a rally, but McCullum swiftly crushed that fight back.
In his first hour at the crease, McCullum put on 69 with Guptill and scored 60 of the first 72 runs in a partnership which quickly produced 89.
The first test of this two-match series is McCullum's 98th consecutive test appearance for New Zealand and he is expected to retire at the end of the domestic summer as the firstcricketer to play 100 consecutive tests.
Sri Lankas Suranga Lakmal bowls against New Zealand. He returns with best figures for Sri Lanka. (AP)
Suranga Lakmal, who became the best of the Sri Lanka bowlers after a difficult start, took 2-69 as New Zealand scored throughout the day at more than four runs per over.
New Zealand 1st Innings: 409 for 8 (Martin Guptill 156, Kane Williamson 88, Brendon McCullum 75; Suranga Lakmal 2/69, Nuwan Pradeep 2/101).