Michael Clarke secures an unbeaten century as Australia takes charge on the opening day of the first Test against New Zealand in Wellington.
Clarke's century puts Australia in charge
WELLINGTON// Michael Clarke put all his off-field dramas behind him to notch an unbeaten century as Australia took charge on the opening day of the first Test against New Zealand in Wellington. At stumps he was 100 not out with Marcus North unbeaten on 52, the pair having put on 140 runs as Australia ended the day 316 for four. The Australia vice-captain, whose recent high-profile split from model Lara Bingle was played out in the full glare of the media, was given a respectful welcome by the Basin Reserve crowd when he came to the crease with Australia at 115 for three. And loud applause followed when he celebrated reaching three figures in the penultimate over of the day. After taking 16 balls to get off the mark, Clarke made nine off 45 deliveries by tea but stepped up the pace in the final session to bring up his fifty in 103 deliveries. He then took just a further 38 balls to bring up his 14th Test hundred, which included 10 boundaries and two sixes. Up until the late flourish from the Clarke, Simon Katich (79) had led the scoring for the visitors after Ricky Ponting won the toss and chose to bat. In the first two sessions New Zealand had largely been able to keep the Australians in check with some good tight, accurate bowling with seamer Brent Arnel having a debut to remember with the wickets of opener Phillip Hughes (20) and Katich. Daryl Tuffey (none for 35 off 16 overs) and Daniel Vettori (none for 69 off 21) were the most miserly but went unrewarded. It was Arnel (two for 70) who got the early breakthrough for the hosts, getting the wicket of Hughes with only the fifth ball of his Test match career. Hughes, who came in at the top of the order after all-rounder Shane Watson was a late withdrawal with a hip injury, made 20 off 24 balls before edging one to Ross Taylor in the slips. But it was the only wicket to fall in the morning session as Ponting and Katich comfortably steered their side to 93 by lunch. The New Zealanders struck twice in the first hour of the afternoon session, getting the key wickets of Ponting (41) and Michael Hussey (four). Ponting, who looked set for a big innings, was run out by BJ Watling when Katich called for a single off Arnel. The captain was well short of the crease when the 24-year-old opening batsman got a direct underarm hit. Watling was in the thick of the action again to remove Hussey when the left-hander, promoted to number four, edged a Chris Martin delivery to the slips. Katich made some amends for running out his skipper to reach his 21st Test half-century with his seventh boundary of the innings the ball before drinks, his 51 taking 132 balls. But tight bowling from the home side put the brakes on the Australian innings, and by tea Katich had moved on to 74, Clarke was unbeaten on nine and Australia went into the break 163 for three. Katich was fortunate to still be at the crease after two chances went begging just prior to the break, however. First he was dropped on 68 by wicket-keeper Brendon McCullum, then Tuffey failed to take a running catch after the left-hander skied one trying to slog-sweep Vettori. The opener could not make the most of his reprieve, though, trapped leg before wicket by Arnel early in the final session having added just five more runs to his total. Clarke and North showed plenty of patience following the dismissal of Katich as the New Zealand bowlers kept the pressure on. But as the session wore on they cut loose to bring up their 100-run partnership before Clarke and then North brought up their respective milestones in the final two overs. * PA Sport