Guptill gives Kiwis strong foundation

New Zealand

Martin Guptill made the most of benign batting conditions at Queens Sports Club to record his seventh Test fifty on the first day of New Zealand's Test against Zimbabwe.

Life in Bulawayo never moves at any great pace, and day one of the Test match between Zimbabwe and New Zealand reflected that as the tourists eased serenely to 275 for three at stumps.

As had been expected the Queens Sports Club pitch gave the Zimbabwe bowlers little to work with, and New Zealand's batsmen cashed in after their captain Ross Taylor had won the toss and elected to bat first.

Martin Guptill's second Test century was the highlight, while Taylor ended the day unbeaten on 76 with BJ Watling (16 not out) for company, as the Black Caps set themselves up for a big total.

In truth Zimbabwe's bowlers did little wrong, and after using what little swing was available in the first session to attack, they tightened up in the second session and made scoring as difficult as possible when conditions eased for the batsmen.

Guptill mixed patience and aggression to good effect, allowing himself quiet spells in the face of tight bowling but also launching the ball back over Ray Price's head whenever the left-arm spinner provided the opportunity.

The 25-year-old had two close calls during his innings, with a strong drive going straight through Price's hands shortly before lunch, and then Bruce Oxenford turning down a decent shout for lbw by Jarvis.

He went to 99 with a huge six over long-off, and then went to three figures two deliveries later as he pulled a Price long-hop through midwicket for four.

"Any time you score a hundred is a good time, but it was quite difficult out there today so I was very pleased to come away with one," Guptill said afterwards.

"There was a little bit of swing in the first few overs and then it went away and it was pretty straight up and down, but they bowled well and set straight fields which made it difficult to score runs.

"They were very discplined so the way that Ross Taylor and I batted, I think we did quite well."

Guptill was well supported by Taylor in a 132-run partnership for the third wicket, but was out in disappointing fashion when he pulled part-timer Hamilton Masakadza straight to midwicket to depart for 109.

That allowed Zimbabwe to claim a wicket in every session, after Kyle Jarvis had forced Brendon McCullum to play on in the first hour of the day and Price had run out Kane Williamson in one of the stranger dismissals one could witness.

Williamson was on 49 when he came down the pitch to push a Price delivery back to the bowler. Price's return throw to wicketkeeper Regis Chakabva was good, but would not have found Williamson short of his ground had he used his bat. However with the batsman instead looking to stride back into his crease in lackadaisical fashion, he was caught with his toe on the line by the third umpire.

Zimbabwe's poor fielding haunted them once again in the dying moments of the day, as both Taylor and Watling were dropped in the final half hour.

Taylor was fortunate to see his thin edge down the leg side off Chris Mpofu's bowling dropped by the wicketkeeper Regis Chakabva, while Watling edged a delivery from Kyle Jarvis past first slip just a few overs later.

That reflected a threatening spell from both ends with the second new ball, which will still have some shine on it when play resumes on Wednesday morning.

A total of five new caps were handed out at the start of the day, as Njabulo Ncube, Malcolm Waller and Regis Chakabva made their debuts for Zimbabwe and Dean Brownlie and Doug Bracewell were included in New Zealand's Test side for the first time.

<b>Tristan Holme in Bulawayo</b>

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