BRISBANE, Australia // Michael Clarke hit a charmed century while Ricky Ponting and Brad Haddin eased the pressure on their Test careers with half-centuries as Australia took charge of the first Test against New Zealand at the Gabba today.
Helped by sloppy Kiwi fielding, the Australians put themselves in a strong position with a commanding 427 in their first innings to seize a 132-run lead over the Black Caps.
The Kiwis lost the key wicket of Brendon McCullum, caught in the slips by Ricky Ponting off James Pattinson in the seven overs to stumps to be 10 for one and trail by 122 runs with two days to play.
Martin Guptill was not out seven with nightwatchman Doug Bracewell yet to score.
New Zealand's hopes of a first victory in Australia for 26 years faded after they dropped Clarke twice on his way to 139, while Haddin chipped in with 80 and former skipper Ponting hit 78.
It is the seventh time in the last eight seasons that Australia has amassed 400 runs or more in the first innings at their Gabba fortress, where they remain unbeaten for 23 years.
Clarke rode his luck to claim his 17th Test century after he was dropped at 85 and 105 and bowled off a no-ball on Friday. He made the Black Caps pay dearly as he shared in a 108-run sixth wicket stand with Haddin for Australia to take control of the match.
"Once I got that life on 20-odd, it was important for me to go on and make a big score for the team," Clarke said.
"I don't care how we get to 400. I'm not really bothered who makes them. If we can make 400 every innings we play, we won't lose too many Test matches."
Chris Martin, the Kiwi paceman, said "inept" fielding had cost the Black Caps.
"There were good periods of building up pressure, but when we got that opportunity we didn't take it and they actually changed the momentum through our ineptness with the catching, that was the tough thing today," he said.
It was Clarke's fourth Test hundred against the Kiwis and second in his last five Test innings after scoring 151 against South Africa in the first innings of the Cape Town Test last month.