Michael Clarke hit a charmed century while Ricky Ponting and Brad Haddin eased the pressure on their Test careers with half-centuries as Australia took charge of the first Test against New Zealand at the Gabba on Saturday. Helped by sloppy Kiwi fielding, the Australians put themselves in a strong position with a commanding 427 in their first innings to seize a 132-run lead over the Black Caps. The Kiwis lost the key wicket of Brendon McCullum, caught in the slips by Ricky Ponting off James Pattinson in the seven overs to stumps to be 10 for one and trail by 122 runs with two days to play. Martin Guptill was not out seven with nightwatchman Doug Bracewell yet to score. New Zealand’s hopes of a first victory in Australia for 26 years faded after they dropped Clarke twice on his way to 139, while Haddin chipped in with 80 and former skipper Ponting hit 78. It is the seventh time in the last eight seasons that Australia has amassed 400 runs or more in the first innings at their Gabba fortress, where they remain unbeaten for 23 years. Clarke rode his luck to claim his 17th Test century after he…
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