Cricket: Taylor's timely return to form

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Australia 217-3 v New Zealand

A DETERMINED 82 on a green wicket by the opener, Mark Taylor, put Australia on top at the end of the first day of the first Test against New Zealand in Christchurch yesterday. Australia, sent in to bat, ended the day at 217 for 3. But for some rash shots by the three batsmen who were dismissed, they could have been in an even stronger position.

Taylor received solid support from Justin Langer, who was 63 not out at the close, with Steve Waugh on 33. For Taylor it was a welcome return to form as he has not scored a Test half-century since his century against India in Adelaide in January 1992. 'It's been a while,' Taylor said.

In sunny conditions, the New Zealand captain, Martin Crowe, had no hesitation in asking Australia to bat on the Lancaster Park wicket, which had sweated under covers in the rain on Wednesday. But his four-pronged pace attack bowled a line which allowed Taylor and David Boon to let most deliveries go by.

Boon was out for 15, flashing at a wide ball in Michael Owens' first over to give the wicketkeeper, Adam Parore, a diving catch in front of first slip.

Taylor was joined by his fellow left-hander, Justin Langer, and they established Australia's dominance in a 116-run stand.

Taylor began scratchily but grew in confidence and it was a surprise when he miscued a pull off Danny Morrison to give Martin Crowe the catch. In nearly five hours at the wicket he hit six fours.

When Mark Waugh was caught behind from the off-spinner Dipak Patel for 13, New Zealand had a glimmer of hope at 170 for 3. But Langer and Steve Waugh ensured a strong position for the tourists.

Langer scored most of his runs behind the wicket and interspersed long periods of intense concentration with the odd wild swing. Crowe dropped him on 37 off Patel, who bowled well in spells.

New Zealand's quick bowlers will remember the day as one in which they failed to exploit helpful conditions. 'They are sitting in the dressing room reflecting on what might have been,' Warren Lees, the coach, said.

(First day: New Zealand won toss)

AUSTRALIA - First Innings

D C Boon c Parore b Owens. . . . . .15

M A Taylor c Crowe b Morrison. . . .82

J L Langer not out . . . . . . . . .63

M E Waugh c Parore b Patel . . . . .13

S R Waugh not out. . . . . . . . . .33

Extras (w1 lb5 nb5). . . . . . . . .11

Total (for 3) . . . . . . . . . . .217

Fall: 1-33 2-149 3-170.

To bat: * A R Border, I A Healy, M G Hughes, P R Reiffel, C J McDermott, S K Warne.

Bowling (to date): Morrison 21-6-38-1; Su'a 18-5-41-0; Cairns 19-8-40-0; Owens 13-4-25-1; Patel 19-3-68-1.

NEW ZEALAND: M J Greatbatch, J G Wright, A H Jones, * M D Crowe, K R Rutherford, D N Patel, A C Parore, C L Cairns, M L Su'a, D K Morrison, M B Owens.