Brisbane: Skipper Steve Smith spoke about a new era of Australian cricket before the first test against New Zealand and his side launched it in some style with a thumping 208-run victory to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series on Monday.
Smith took charge permanently for the first time at the Gabba after succeeding Michael Clarke and there were concerns his side might be vulnerable after Chris Rogers, Brad Haddin and Shane Watson joined his predecessor in retirement.
The top order was a particular worry but new vice-captain David Warner was named Man of the Match on Monday after scoring two centuries, while his new opening partner Joe Burns and recalled number three Usman Khawaja both scored maiden hundreds.
“I thought the first morning really set the tone for us with Joe Burns and Davy Warner batting so well,” Smith told a news conference.
“I thought the top order set the test match up for us. The partnerships that we had in that top three were crucial to our success.”
With such strong starts to both innings — Burns and Warner shared opening partnerships of 161 and 237 — the often under-fire all-rounder Mitchell Marsh had little chance to impress with the bat.
He did, however, improve his chances of retaining his spot for the second test in Perth when he took the wicket of New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum and flirted with a hat-trick before finishing with figures of 2-25 on Monday.
“He came on and bowled with decent pace at the end,” Smith said.
“He hadn’t contributed much in the test match so it was nice that he could come on and do really decent job for us.”
The part of the team most Australians were not concerned about before the test was the pace attack, but Smith suggested Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood needed to up their game for the Perth test, which starts on Friday.
“Our new ball bowling needs a little bit of improvement, I think we bowled a bit too short,” he said.
“We don’t normally do that here, we usually get the ball up and make the batters drive and I think that’s going to be important leading into Perth, which are probably going to be pretty similar conditions.”
Both captains said the game was played in a good spirit but Smith was disappointed that Starc had thrown the ball at New Zealand tail ender Mark Craig towards the end of the match when there was no run-out possible.
“It was just a bit of frustration and I think he just needs to let it out in other ways,” Smith added.
“He’s done it a few times before and I’m going to have a word to him when we get back to the sheds.”
Earlier, Australia crushed New Zealand by 208 runs but the Kiwis were left to curse a disputed decision against skipper Brendon McCullum on the final day of the first Test yesterday.
The Australians claimed the seven remaining wickets during the morning in Brisbane to go one-up in the three-Test series after dismissing the Black Caps for 295.
New Zealand were chasing a massive 504-run target after two innings declarations from the dominant home side, who easily maintained their 27-year unbeaten streak at the Gabba.
Pugnacious opening batsman David Warner was named man of the match after hitting centuries in both innings as the Australians powered away.
While the Kiwis were well beaten there was controversy over the dismissal of McCullum, who was his team’s shining light with a typically uninhibited knock.
McCullum was well set for his first Test century in Australia on 80, when he got a disputed call from English umpire Nigel Llong, who gave him out to a catch off his pad by Steve Smith at second slip.
McCullum protested, saying he had not hit the ball, but with their two referrals already exhausted he trudged from the ground, taking New Zealand’s hopes of staying in the match with him.
However, McCullum did not make a fuss about the incident at his post-match media conference.
“That’s the game. Both umpires are two of the best in world cricket, outstanding umpires who are allowed to make the occasional mistake,” he said.
“That’s just the game and you’ve got to cop it sweet.
“I was a bit frustrated. I felt was playing okay and pretty determined to ensure we were able to keep batting deep into the afternoon. But I’ve been around long enough to know you get some go your way and some against you at times.”