Wellington Test: Aussies dominate against Kiwis

WELLINGTON: Captain Daniel Vettori again holds the New Zealand cricket team''s fate in his hands after his batting fight back saved their blushes in the first Test against Australia today.

Vettori stood firm on 42 not out in the gathering Basin Reserve gloom as New Zealand reached 108 for four at stumps on the second day in reply to Australia''s first innings of 459 for five declared.

He and Martin Guptill (19 not out) propped New Zealand up from a wobbly 43 for four but need to kick on strongly tomorrow with the follow-on target still another 152 runs away.

Vettori picked the right balls to hit in his 79-ball knock, including five fours, while Guptill, now ensconced at No 5, played a mature hand with his side in trouble. He batted 113 minutes and faced 94 deliveries, with his only extravagant shot a big straight six off spinner Nathan Hauritz.

Left-arm paceman Doug Bollinger, with figures of two for 21, relished a bouncy pitch as he bookended the New Zealand top-order collapse.

He started the rot in the first over when he trapped BJ Watling dead in front with a fast inswinger, first ball.

Tim McIntosh''s unhappy 74-minute stay for nine ended when he edged debutant Ryan Harris to the slips cordon for the Queenslander''s first Test wicket.

Big hope Ross Taylor looked comfortable immediately, stroking four boundaries en route to 21, but a fired-up Bollinger returned and enticed an edge, leaving Vettori to marshall another rescue mission.

It was all Australia for the first half of the day, too, as Michael Clarke''s 168 and Marcus North''s 112 not out featuring in a record-breaking partnership that batted the hosts out of the Test.

From 316 for four overnight, the pair rumbled on in perfect conditions as they put on 253, an Australian fifth wicket partnership record against New Zealand, beating the previous mark of 213 set by Greg Matthews and Greg Ritchie in the 1985-86 season.

Clarke''s was the only Australian wicket to fall today when he charged Vettori and was stumped down the leg side by Brendon McCullum.

His epic innings, a 14th Test century for the Australian vice-captain, spanned 364 minutes, 253 deliveries and included 22 fours and two sixes.