Australia shone with both bat and ball as Ricky Ponting's men installed themselves as firm favourites for victory in the first Test against New Zealand in Wellington. After Ponting surprisingly declared on 459 for five midway through the middle session on day two, the visitors maintained their stranglehold by reducing New Zealand to 108 for four at stumps to leave them trailing by 351 runs. Once again New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori had to perform a rescue mission after coming to the crease with his side in a perilous position at 43 for four. The all-rounder was just eight runs shy of his 22nd half-century when play ended and he and Martin Guptill (19 not out) will need to continue the fightback on day three if New Zealand are to provide Australia with any kind of challenge. Having dominated the first four sessions thanks to Michael Clarke (168), Marcus North (112no), Simon Katich (79) and Ponting (41), it was the turn of the Australian bowlers to turn the screw after lunch at the Basin Reserve - and they wasted no time. Doug Bollinger (two for 21) trapped opener BJ Watling for a duck with his fifth ball and Mitchell Johnson followed that up with some nifty footwork to have Peter Ingram run out for five. Tim McIntosh ran a single that was not there and Ingram was well short of the crease when Johnson kicked the ball onto the stumps at the striker's end. By tea New Zealand had limped to 20 for two with Ross Taylor and Tim McIntosh unbeaten on four and seven, respectively. But early in the final session Ryan Harris (one for 23) bagged his maiden Test wicket when McIntosh got a thick edge to Michael Hussey to leave New Zealand in real trouble on 31 for three. They sank further into the mire when Taylor, who had hit four boundaries on his way to a 38-ball 21, was caught by North off the first ball of Bollinger's new spell with New Zealand's score only advanced by 12 runs. Vettori and Guptill survived to the close putting on a valuable 65 runs and will need to provide more of the same grit and determination on day three. It was a hard morning in the field for the New Zealand bowlers with Clarke and North taking total control up to lunch then North and Haddin (11no) carrying on until the declaration came around an hour after the interval. Australia vice-captain Clarke and North took their partnership through to 229 by the end of the opening session to surpass the previous Australian record for the fifth wicket against New Zealand of 213. Clarke moved from 100 at the start of the day to be 153 by lunch, while North had comfortably reached 84 having resumed on 52. Having gone past the mark set by Greg Matthews and Greg Ritchie in the 1985-86 season, Clarke - who has been under intense media scrutiny during the break-up of his relationship with model Lara Bingle - brought up his 150 as the visitors cruised to 405 for four at lunch. It was the second time in as many Tests the 28-year-old right-hander had reached the milestone following his highest Test score of 166 scored against Pakistan in Hobart in January. Clarke wasted no time in surpassing that score but Vettori eventually got the breakthrough when he got one past Clarke charging down the wicket and Brendon McCullum whipped the bails off to break the stand at 253. North then brought up his well-deserved ton with his eighth boundary, his fourth Test century taking 192 balls and also including two sixes. Shortly after that Ponting called his batsmen in and let his bowlers loose on New Zealand's fragile top order.
* PA Sport