Martin Guptill responded to critics in muted tones with a century and Brendon McCullum issued a definitive statement as New Zealand assumed early control of the first test against Sri Lanka at University Oval in Dunedin on Thursday.
At one stage the Black Caps might have eclipsed the 429-7 they made to open the previous series with Sri Lanka in Christchurch on Boxing Day last year, but McCullum’s departure understandably slowed the scoring rate, although New Zealand still accumulated at 4.54 runs an over.
Guptill’s 156 from 234 balls anchored New Zealand’s 409-8 – meaning another lost toss by McCullum was immaterial, although he might be irked at the number of wickets that followed his departure.
McCullum, who is playing the last test of his career in his home town, was measured when inevitably asked on Wednesday to discuss his role in the Chris Cairns perjury trial – but was more expressive in friendlier surroundings at the wicket.
The Black Caps captain started peppering the boundaries with disdain as he pierced a defensive field with typical panache until he went aerial once too often to spike a 53-ball, 13 boundary, 75 that lasted less than an hour.
McCullum tended to rack up boundaries in succession and took 15 from a Dushmantha Chameera over – including the first six of the match – to race to his 31st test half century from 39 balls.
He stroked, clubbed or cut eight boundaries before a brief wave of the bat to his teammates – an assault that allowed Guptill – who was no slouch in the strike rate department either – to adopt a supporting role.
Guptill’s third test century – and first since he made 109 against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo in late 2011 – eased some pressure on the 29-year-old opener after he averaged just 13.66 in the recent three test series in Australia.
The right hander’s ton needed 143 balls and contained 17 boundaries, including the cover drive that allowed him to outstretch his arms towards the pavilion.
He ultimately occupied the crease until five overs from the close and struck 21 boundaries.
After Guptill and Tom Latham made a brisk start, the Aucklander shared a 173-run stand for the second wicket with Kane Williamson, a new Black Caps record against Sri Lanka.
Guptill, who reached the 2000-run landmark on 60, had few anxious moments, though he had a reprieve on 78 when Sri Lanka failed to review a leg before wicket appeal that was rejected by English umpire Richard Kettleborough.
While Guptill enjoyed his most productive innings since a career-best 189 against Bangladesh almost six years ago, Williamson’s understated celebration of two more career milestones was put on hold two balls before the tea adjournment.
Williamson seemed on track to compile his 13th test century and 1000 test runs for the calendar year when an edged drive from Nuwan Pradeep flew high to the quick-reacting Dimuth Karunaratne at first slip.
International cricket’s most prolific run scorer across all formats to date in 2015, struck a dozen cultured boundaries before he exited eight runs shy of the 1000 run mark and although Ross Taylor failed to make an impression the double breakthrough only set the scene for another explosive McCullum cameo.
He contributed 61 off the 90 added in the first hour after tea but eventually holed out to back-up left arm spinner Milinda Siriwardana, the seventh bowler Angelo Mathews tried to stem the run flow.
Mathews’ decision to bowl first was questionable once the new ball bowlers derived no assistance from the pitch – and didn’t help themselves by pitching too full.
However, they stuck to the task and made some late gains when Mitchell Santner and BJ Watling – to the first delivery of the new ball – trooped off in quick succession.
Doug Bracewell was unbeaten on 32 and Neil Wagner was yet to score at stumps.
Raw pace bowler Chameera (2-101 from 17) had to wait until the 21st over to mark his run and went for 5.94 per over but his determination to hit the deck hard was recognised with two scalps when entrusted with the second new ball.
AT A GLANCE
Scoreboard at stumps on day one of the first cricket test between New Zealand and Sri Lanka at University Oval in Dunedin on Thursday.
M Guptill c Chandimal b Mathews 156
T Latham c and b Lakmal 22
K Williamson c Karunaratne b Pradeep 88
R Taylor lbw Perera 8
B McCullum c Vithanage b Siriwardana 75
M Santner c Chandimal b Chameera 12
BJ Watling c Vithanage b Chameera 5
D Bracewell not out 32
T Southee c Siriwardana b Lakmal 2
N Wagner not out 0
Extras (4b 3lb 1 w 1nb) 9
Total (for 8 wkts, 90 overs) 409
Fall: 56 (Latham), 229 (Williamson), 243 (Taylor), 334 (McCullum), 359 (Santner), 365 (Watling), 394 (Guptill), 399 (Southee)
Bowling: S Lakmal 16-1-69-2 ,N Pradeep 20-2-101-2 , A Mathews 9-2-28-1 , D Chameera 17-1-101-2 (1w), R Herath 19-1-46-0, U Jayasundera 5-0-33-0 (1nb), M Siriwardena 4-0-24-1