Cricket: Taylor finds form to thwart Kiwis

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The Independent Online
Australia 269-6 v New Zealand

Mark Taylor vindicated the selectors' decision to retain him as Australia's captain by producing his best performance on home soil in two years to prevent New Zealand claiming an early advantage on the first day of the opening Test in Brisbane.

Taylor, under pressure as captain despite retaining the Ashes two months ago in England, scored a chanceless century to help Australia recover from a perilous 52 for 4 at lunch to reach 269 for 6 at the close.

It was Taylor's first century in Australia since his 123 against Pakistan in Hobart in November 1995. He ended a run of 20 Test innings without a half-century with a courageous 129 in the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston in June.

"It's the best I've batted in a Test match probably since Hobart against Pakistan [in 1995]," said Taylor, who hit 112 in 312 minutes. "I've had a tough year and it's been well documented, but I always believed my time would come."

The 33-year-old captain anchored the Australian innings after New Zealand put the home side in and capitalised on a moist, unprepared pitch by making early inroads into their top order. The Nottinghamshire all-rounder Chris Cairns dismissed Matthew Elliott (18), Greg Blewett (7), Mark Waugh (3) and Steve Waugh (2) in the morning session to lift New Zealand's hopes of restricting Australia to a modest first-innings total.

The next two sessions belonged to Australia, though, as Taylor partnered Ricky Ponting (26) and the wicketkeeper Ian Healy in healthy partnerships to resist the Kiwi challenge. Taylor and Ponting forged a 56-run sixth- wicket partnership and the captain found a willing ally in Healy, with whom he added 117 before Taylor was out 45 minutes before stumps, having hit 10 boundaries.

Healy, playing in his 95th Test, was dropped twice by Young on 27 and 42 before reaching his 19th Test half-century. He finished unbeaten on 62, while Paul Reiffel reached the close on 23.

Cairns eventually tired and finished the first day with 4 for 65, but such was his disappointment at Australia's revival that he refused to accept praise for his performance. "One day is not going to achieve the goals I've set myself for the tour, " he said.

First day; New Zealand won toss

AUSTRALIA - First Innings

*M A Taylor c Young b Doull 112

M T Elliott c Young b Cairns 18

G S Blewett c Vettori b Cairns 7

M E Waugh c Vettori b Cairns 3

S R Waugh c Vettori b Cairns 2

R T Ponting c Pocock b Doull 26

I A Healy not out 62

P R Reiffel not out 23

Extras (b4, lb7, nb4, w1) 16

Total (for 6, 91 overs) 269

Fall: 1-27, 2-46, 3-50, 4-52, 5-108, 6-225.

To bat: S K Warne, M S Kasprowicz, G D McGrath.

Bowling: Doull 24-6-52-2 (w-1); Allott 23-2-83-0; Cairns 20-5-65-4 (nb- 2); Vettori 9-3-21-0; Astle 11-2-20-0; Harris 4-1-17-0 (nb-2).

NEW ZEALAND: B A Young, B A Pocock, N J Astle, *S P Fleming, C L Cairns, C D McMillan, A C Parore, C Z Harris, D K Vettori, S B Doull, G I Allott.