WELLINGTON: Australian vice-captain Michael Clarke has returned to the Test team in emphatic style against New Zealand in Wellington, scoring his 14th Test hundred.
Clarke (100 not out) put aside the dramas of his broken engagement to celebrity model Lara Bingle to help Australia to a comfortable 316-4 at stumps on first day of the first Test.
West Australian left-hander Marcus North, whose position in the team was under intense scrutiny, is 52 not out after sharing in an unbeaten partnership of 140 with Clarke.
Earlier, opener Simon Katich got Australia off to a solid start, scoring a typically gritty 79 before being trapped lbw by debutant Brent Arnel. He hit eight fours and one six.
Ricky Ponting was run out soon after lunch for 41 after a mix-up with Katich, who pushed a ball to cover and the skipper hesitated before falling well short of his ground at the striker’s end.
Mike Hussey (four) was caught in the slips off Chris Martin’s bowling, making it 3-115.
After the dramatic and last-minute withdrawal of opener Shane Watson, Australia reached 1-93 at lunch.
Watson pulled out with a hip injury after a bruise, inflicted by Kiwi paceman Shane Bond during the one-day international series, developed into a muscle strain.
The 21-year-old Phil Hughes, playing in his seventh Test, slashed a wide ball from debutant seamer Brent Arnel to slip in the sixth over.
Queensland pace bowler Ryan Harris comes into the Australian side for his debut in place of Peter Siddle, who is out for several months with a back injury.
Ponting won the toss for the seventh successive time, dating back to the fifth ODI match against the West Indies in Melbourne on February 19 and including the five ODI matches in New Zealand this month.