An imposing century by New Zealand opener Jamie How shone like a beacon on a dark opening day of their Australian tour at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Thursday.
How blazed 170, his highest first-class score, in New Zealand’s total of 266 as he saved his side from total embarrassment against New South Wales a week out from the first test in Brisbane.
The Central Districts opener faced 272 deliveries in his memorable 332-minute knock, and hit 13 fours and six sixes before he was last out, caught at extra cover trying to hit out.
His final boundary topped his previous highest score of 169, against Otago in 2003-04.
But if How’s ninth first-class century was a bold statement of intent for Australia’s pacemen to note, the rest showed there was much work to do on day one of the four-day match.
Ross Taylor’s 31 was next best and his dismissal epitomised New Zealand’s day as he drove at a full delivery from 17-year-old debutant Josh Hazlewood and was caught behind.
The 2m-tall Hazlewood took two for 53 while fellow-paceman Grant Lambert took five for 74, including How’s wicket, to finish the innings just before stumps.
The hosts survived five overs from Kyle Mills, Tim Southee and captain Daniel Vettori to be 15 without loss.
The scene was well set for a New Zealand runfest after Vettori won the toss and chose to bat in the Sydney sun on an easy-paced pitch offering little movement for the pacemen.
It was also a second-string NSW pace attack missing internationals Brett Lee, Stuart Clark, Nathan Bracken and Doug Bollinger.
The pre-match fear was New Zealand would be underdone, with a short tour of Bangladesh their only competitive cricket since the winter tour of England.
That played out early on as opener Aaron Redmond and No 3 Jesse Ryder missed royal chances to bank some pre-test runs in their only warmup match.
Redmond pushed forward to Hazlewood and was caught behind for five while Ryder started with a square driven boundary off Hazlewood but was lured into a false hook shot by Lambert and nicked out for 16.
Ryder perhaps had excuses as he returned to the historic SCG pavilion vomiting due to a stomach bug.
Taylor and How’s third wicket stand of 64 was the highest of the innings before Taylor’s dismissal sparked a collapse of four for 46 in 14 overs.
How’s only blemish was a mix-up with vice-captain Brendon McCullum, who was sent back after turning for a second run and run-out at the bowler’s end for four. A visibly angry McCullum swished his bat as he departed.
Daniel Flynn and Vettori departed cheaply, caught behind the wicket, within four overs of each other to reduce New Zealand to 167 for six.
But How put the McCullum mix-up behind him and rarely played a false shot.
He was particularly strong square of the wicket and reached his century off 174 balls with a six off legspinner Steven Smith; and 150 with a hooked six off Lambert.
He was on 141 when No 11 Chris Martin joined him, and whacked another 29 including consecutive sixes off Lambert.
New Zealand chose a shadow test team, featuring four pacemen, omitting allrounder Grant Elliott and paceman Mark Gillespie from their tour squad of 13.