BRISBANE, Australia: David Warner backed up his words with action as he hit his 13th Test century while recalled Usman Khawaja claimed his maiden ton as Australia took an iron grip on their Test series opener against New Zealand on Thursday.
The outspoken Warner, who vowed an aggressive Australian approach to the three-Test series, lived up to his feisty words with his second-highest Test score against an underwhelming Kiwi bowling attack at the Gabba.
With Warner plundering 163 runs off 224 balls, the Australians pounded the ragged Black Caps to go to stumps at 389 for two and a record first day Test score.
Khawaja also cashed in reaching his first Test century just before the close and was unbeaten on 102 with skipper Steve Smith not out on 41.
Along the way Smith raised 1,000 Test runs in the calendar year.
Warner was finally out to one of his few false strokes of the day, but it took a marvellous one-handed catch above Ross Taylor’s head at slip to snare his prized wicket off James Neesham.
The irrepressible left-hander smashed 22 fours and one six for his second-highest Test score behind his 180 against India in Perth almost three years ago.
Only four Australian openers — Matt Hayden (30), Mark Taylor (19), Justin Langer (16) and Michael Slater (14) — have amassed more Test centuries than Warner’s 13.
Warner shared in two mammoth stands with Joe Burns (161) and Khawaja (150) to have the Australians in full flow at a ground where they have not lost a Test match since 1988.
– Silky century –
Pakistan-born Khawaja put down a huge down payment on a regular Test spot with a silky hundred after a stop-start career in his previous nine Tests since making his debut against England in Sydney in 2011.
The elegant Khawaja carried on the momentum with his maiden Test ton off 123 balls after new opener Burns had shared in a big opening stand with Warner to overpower the Black Caps on the opening day of the series.
It was a bold statement from Steve Smith’s new-look Australian team after the post-Ashes departures of former skipper Michael Clarke along with stalwarts Shane Watson, Chris Rogers, Brad Haddin and Ryan Harris.
Burns and Khawaja fitted seamlessly into the revamped Australian batting lineup, providing prolific support for the freewheeling Warner.
The Australians scored briskly against the unthreatening bowling and shoddy fielding, bringing up their 300 at almost a run a minute.
It was a deflating opening day for Brendon McCullum’s Black Caps, who are looking for their first series win in Australia for 30 years.
Burns completed his third consecutive Test half-century before he edged Tim Southee to wicketkeeper BJ Watling for 71.
Burns, opening the innings after batting at number six in his previous two Test appearances against India last home season, made the most of his opportunity after being bypassed by selectors for this year’s Ashes series in England.
He batted for 183 minutes and hit 12 fours in his solid 120-ball knock.
Skipper McCullum tinkered with some exotic field placements, even placing eight men on the off-side for Warner at one stage facing Southee, in a bid for a breakthrough, but to no avail.
Warner survived a review for leg before wicket off Bracewell on 39 after replays showed the ball pitching outside leg stump, and shortly after he smashed Bracewell straight over the sight screen for six. – AFP