BRISBANE (Reuters) – 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.”
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney; Editing by John O’Brien)