New Zealand’s Brendon McCullum plays a shot during day one of the first International Test cricket match between New Zealand and Sri Lanka at University Oval in Dunedin on December 10, 2015. AFP
AFP: Martin Guptill smashed 156 on Thursday as he bounced back from a horror series in Australia to put New Zealand in the driving seat on day one of the first Test against Sri Lanka.
On a Dunedin pitch said to be ripe for seam bowlers, Sri Lanka were left to rue putting New Zealand in to bat as the Black Caps amassed 409 for eight by stumps.
Opener Guptill fell just before the close, after hitting just his third Test century and his first in four years, coming 33 runs short of his highest score of 189 against Bangladesh in 2010.
Meanwhile the ever-reliable Kane Williamson made 88 and Brendon McCullum 75 as New Zealand exposed the raw Sri Lankan attack.
New Zealand were cruising 229 for two at tea before Sri Lanka fought back in the final session when they took six wickets, albeit for an expensive 180 runs.
There were only seven maiden overs bowled and New Zealand cracked 57 fours, of which Guptill contributed 21.
The opener’s position in the side was precarious after he averaged just 13 in the recent tour of Australia, and said he “didn’t have a lot to lose” as he took to the Sri Lankan attack.
His third Test century came 41 innings and four years after he last posted three figures against Zimbabwe.
Inconsistent form saw him out of the Test side for two years before the short-form of the game resurrected his career when he played a starring role at this year’s World Cup.
Guptill got off the mark with an off-drive to the boundary and in an elegant innings, he used the same front-foot stroke to bring up his 100 when he drove Suranga Lakmal to the boundary.
“I was trying to go out and be as positive as I could be,” Guptill said, as he repaid the faith shown in him by the New Zealand selectors.
“I didn’t have a lot to lose so I just tried to go out and be as positive as I could and have some fun.”
“They (selectors) have been good to me and given me a good run in the Test side and I thank them very much for that and today capped off a lot of hard work over the last 18 months,” Guptill added.
- Belligerent McCullum -
Guptill had a few chances -- two shaky edges and a near run-out early in the innings, and two lbw shouts on 78.
Had Sri Lanka appealed the second one, replays showed the not out decision may have been overturned.
But with luck going his way, Guptill shared a 173-run partnership with Williamson, a New Zealand record for the second wicket against Sri Lanka, then added 89 with McCullum.
He was eventually undone six overs from stumps when captain Angelo Mathews swung the ball away and the batsman feathered a catch to wicketkeeper Dinesh Chandimal.
Williamson fell on the last ball before tea, lashing out at a rough delivery from Nuwan Pradeep to be caught in the slips by Dimuth Karunaratne reaching high above his head.
He left the ground requiring only eight more runs to become the fifth player to reach 1,000 runs this calendar year.
McCullum, who like Guptill failed to fire in Australia, also found the Sri Lankan attack more to his liking.
He was at his belligerent best as he raced from 35 to 50 with a six, two fours and a single in successive deliveries from Dushmantha Chameera.
McCullum reached 75 in 57 balls and belted 13 fours and a six before Mathews turned to Milinda Siriwardana, his seventh bowler for the day.
With his third delivery in his third Test, Siriwardana bowled full on the leg side and McCullum sent a top edge to Kithuruwan Vithanage at deep square leg.
For Sri Lanka, Suranga Lakmal took two for 69 while Nuwan Pradeep and 23-year-old Chameera both finished with two for 101.